Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was originally called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EHA). President Gerald Ford signed the legislation with the goal of ensuring that all children with disabilities have access to a “free appropriate public education,” known as FAPE. IDEA requires all schools and districts receiving federal dollars to provide students with disabilities a public education designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. Part B of the law provides for special education and related services for children ages 3-21. Part C provides for early intervention programs for infants and toddlers up to age 2.
The law sets forth requirements for an individualized education program (IEP) to be developed with the parent(s)/guardian(s) and individually tailored to address: (1) the present level of academic functioning, (2) annual goals and accompanying instructional objectives, (3) educational services to be provided, (4) the degree to which the pupil will be able to participate in general education programs, (5) plans for initiating services and the length of service delivery, and (6) an annual evaluation procedure specifying objective criteria to determine if instructional objectives are being met. The law also contains a due process clause that guarantees an impartial hearing to resolve conflicts between the parents of children with disabilities and the school system.
In 1986, EHA was amended to create the Handicapped Infants and Toddlers Program to provide educational services to children from birth through age 2 with developmental delays or disabilities. It assists states in implementing a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency program of services for young children and their families.
The 1990 Amendments (Public Law 101-476) renamed the legislation as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and added traumatic brain injury (TBI) and autism to the category of disabilities. Other changes in 1990 required that an individual transition plan be created for each student no later than age 16. The transition plan is included as part of the IEP to allow for a coordinated set of activities and interagency linkages to promote the student’s movement to post school functions, such as independent living, vocational training, and additional educational experiences. The 1990 amendments also expanded the scope of the related services provision by adding two services: social work and rehabilitation counseling. The 1997 Amendments (Pub. L. 105-17) made these changes:
- Students with disabilities who exhibit less serious infractions of school conduct may be disciplined in ways similar to children without disabilities (including a change in placement) provided that the misbehavior was not a manifestation of the student’s disability.
- IEPs are now required to state how the student with disabilities will be involved with and progress in the general education curriculum.
- Transition planning now begins at age 14.
- Regular educators became part of the IEP team.
- Benchmarks and measurable annual goals are emphasized.
- Assistive technology needs of the student are considered by the IEP team.
- Orientation and mobility services for children with visual impairments are added to the definition of related services.
- States are required to offer mediation services to help resolve disputes.
- A variety of assessment tools and strategies are to be used in an effort to gather relevant functional and developmental information.
- Students with disabilities are included in statewide and districtwide assessment programs or given alternative assessments that meet their unique needs.
The last reauthorization, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-446), increased the focus on accountability and improved outcomes by emphasizing reading, early intervention, and research-based instruction by requiring that special education teachers be highly qualified. The amendments:
- Added language from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 regarding core academic subjects, limited English proficiency, and highly qualified teachers.
- Created a 15-state pilot program in which states may develop and implement three-year IEPs.
- Districts may elect to not use the “discrepancy formula” in determining if students have a learning disability. A school district may instead use a process called the response to intervention model.
- The IEP planning teams must base services on peer-reviewed literature.
- Student progress is regularly monitored based on written measurable goals.
- Benchmarks or short-term objectives are no longer required in an IEP except for students who take alternative assessments.
- Intelligence quotient (IQ) achievement discrepancy is no longer required for the determination of a specific learning disability.
- Response to Intervention (RTI) may be used as part of the special education evaluation.
- RTI interventions are based on research-based interventions.
- Transition services begin at age 16.
- A student with a disability who demonstrates poor behavior may be moved to an interim alternative setting for up to 45 school days if the behavior involves a weapon, illegal drugs, or bodily harm, without the determination of whether the behavior is a manifestation of the disability.
- Dispute-resolution system model for education was clarified.
- Changes are made in special education eligibility and evaluation process.