The ruling came as Gorsuch faced his second day of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his nomination to the Supreme Court.
In Wednesday's opinion, the Supreme Court stressed that more was required by the federal statute.
"When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all", Roberts said.
Disability advocacy groups argued that schools must offer more than the bare minimum of services to children with special needs.
But as ThinkProgress Justice Editor Ian Millhiser reports Wednesday morning, "While Gorusch was testifying, the Supreme Court unanimously said he was wrong".
Instead, the educational program must be "reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances". The court struck down a lower standard endorsed by President Donald Trump's nominee to the high court.
NEA urged the court to adopt exactly that approach in its amicus brief in the Endrew case. In 2010, his parents determined that his public school was not providing him with a sufficiently rigorous education.
The parents of Endrew F., a minor with autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sought private school reimbursement under IDEA after pulling their son from public school over a proposed IEP for his fifth grade year.
They enrolled him in a private academy that specialized in autism, where his behavior and learning improved markedly. That request was denied by an Administrative Law Judge, but the case moved forward. But he praised the court for saying it would defer to the judgment of educational officials.
The appeals court then cited to the opinion by Gorsuch in a 2008 decision, Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P. This is yet another glaring example that reveals Judge Gorsuch is even more out of the mainstream than every single sitting justice who sided with the student in this case.
A Federal District Court later ruled in favor of the school district; the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. They believed it was too similar to past IEPs developed for him, which they did not believe resulted in any meaningful progress and did not provide him with FAPE.
While conceding that Drew was not necessarily thriving at the District, it argued that the IDEA does not require that public schools do "whatever is necessary" to ensure the student achieve a particular level of ability and knowledge. A child's IEP need not aim for grade-level advancement if that is not a reasonable prospect.
The court's decision to require a more demanding test for progress has major implications for about 6.4 million disabled students who want to advance in school and rely on special programs to make that happen.
"It can not be right", he continued, that federal law "generally contemplates grade-level advancement for children with disabilities who are fully integrated in the regular classroom, but is satisfied with barely more than de minimis progress for children who are not". For those who can not be fully integrated into the classroom, services must be designed such that the educational program is "appropriately ambitious in light of [the student's] circumstances".
"Of course this describes a general standard, not a formula", Roberts said".