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Evaluation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
In 1975, President Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act into law during the Civil Rights movement. Since then, it has become what we now know as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA allows for students with disabilities to gain access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE), individual educational programs (IEPs), and to receive services in their least restrictive environment (LRE). IDEA has changed how children with disabilities are identified, how to refer services, and how to carry out these services. Students with disabilities ages three to twenty one are covered under IDEA. Because of IDEA, more than 6.9 million children are provided with services to meet their educational needs (IDEA, n.d.). IDEA is broken down into four different parts, A, B, C, and D. This paper will mainly focus on the information provided in Part B.
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Part B of IDEA is split into subsections. Section 1411 covers how funds should be allocated in special education programs. Section 1412 discusses how states are eligible to receive assistance every year. States have to prove that policies and procedures that cover FAPE, full educational opportunity goal, child find (how students are identified for the special education program), IEP, LRE, procedural safeguards, evaluation, confidentiality, and transitions between schools (IDEA, n.d.). Section 1413 covers how local educational agencies are eligible to receive assistance from the state as long as they follow conditions that align with the states already existing policies. Section 1414 discusses evaluations (initial and reevaluation), parental consent, how to determine whether a student is eligible, and how to create an IEP for that student. Section 1415 covers procedural safeguards. This is access for parents to look at their child’s file, gives them the ability to make amendments to their child’s IEP, allows them to participate in their student’s meeting, and help make decisions about their student’s education (IDEA, n.d.). Section 1416 gives the federal and state departments the ability to monitor local educational agencies in their appropriation of their special education department. Section 1417 describes the responsibilities of the administration that oversee the special education departments at the local, state, and federal levels. Section 1418 discusses how states that adopted IDEA must provide the federal level with data that shows the number of children who have been identified as having a disability. This data needs to include things like the amount of time a student is in a regular education classroom setting and out of the regular education classroom setting, if a student has been removed from a program and why that student was removed, and the number of times a student has been suspended or expelled (IDEA, n.d.). Section 1419 covers how preschools can get grants based on their ability to provide special education programs to children ages three to five.
To become eligible for a special education program, a student must fall into one of thirteen eligibility services. The categories are autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairment which includes blindness. If a child falls into any of those thirteen categories, they will then have to prove that they need special education to succeed in school. If a child meets both of these criteria, then they will qualify for special education under IDEA (Lee, 2019). To determine eligibility a parent, a teacher, or a stakeholder in a child’s education can request to have an evaluation of the child completed. This request can happen at any time during a child’s educational process. Once the request is made, the school is required to conduct an evaluation. This evaluation will help determine the services a child needs in order to be successful in school. Once eligibility is determined, a meeting will be held to discuss and determine an IEP for the child.
Since some students will not qualify for special education because they do not need special education services. If this is the case, they may receive accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Both IDEA and Section 504 deal with the civil rights where they prohibit the discrimination of someone with a disability. For a child to receive accommodations under a Section 504, they must have an impairment that is either physical or mental and it has to affect at least one major life activity (Wright & Wright, 2019). Major life activities are things like eating, sleeping, walking, breathing, or caring for oneself. Under this law, major bodily functions are also covered as major life activities. Both IDEA and Section 504 require an evaluation. The difference is that a Section 504 evaluation gives an idea of information over multiple different areas and a meeting is not required before a student is changed in a placement area. IDEA has procedural safeguards in place that protect both the child and the parents that include notice of placement changes and an educational evaluation. Both IDEA and Section 504 provide modifications and accommodations to students with disabilities that will give them the support they need to be successful.
Family involvement is one of IDEA’s initial philosophies. IDEA gives parents/guardians of students with disabilities the right to participate in the evaluation and IEP process. IDEA requires parents to consent for an evaluation to take place, the gathering of evidence from outside the school building (such as doctor’s offices, counselors, previous school data), and the initial IEP. Parents/guardians are also given written notice of upcoming meetings to discuss the implementation of the IEP and to determine if a reevaluation needs to take place. Dates are also a requirement of when the parent/guardian was contacted and when parents were given copies of the IEP. Parents/guardians are an integral part of the IEP process. The information that they can bring to the team is a driving force to determine which program and accommodations will best suit their student.
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Students with disabilities require an IEP that streamlines their education. An IEP puts students with disabilities on a level playing field as the rest of their peers. It provides resources and modifications that help a student reach their full potential. IEPs are specific to a student’s disability and where they have the greatest need. In order to determine the constructs of an IEP, a team will need to gather to look over all the data to provide the best services for that student. The team is made up of the parents/guardians, the special education teacher(s), the general education teacher(s), a representative of the school (usually an administrator), someone who can read the results of the evaluation, a representative of another specialty that may be needed for the student’s disability (physical therapist, occupational therapist, counselor), and sometimes the student based on their age. This team will need to meet at least once a year to discuss the student’s progress, and determine the changes that will be needed. These changes could be things like goal changes or accommodations changes. While discussing the IEP, the team will discuss an LRE. LRE stands for the least restrictive environment. This refers to a student spending as much time as possible with students who are not receiving special education services (Morin, 2019). This could look different for each disability. A common LRE could be using class within a class support, meaning it is an inclusion class where there are two teachers in the same classroom. One teacher could be whole group teaching while the other teacher is teaching the same thing at the same time to a smaller group. An LRE is an important part of the IEP. It allows for more peer-to-peer interaction to help the student grow, not only academically, but socially as well.
A major topic of IEP meetings is when the discussion of accommodations and modifications arises. We need to note the difference between accommodations and modifications because they are two different entities of the IEP process. An accommodation is a support that is put in place for the student to succeed in the general education classroom setting. Accommodations could be something like preferential seating, the use of a scribe, the use of a calculator, or extended time on assignments or tests. A modification is a change to what the student learns or is taught. Modifications could be something like chunking tests, removing answer choices on a multiple choice test, or creating an alternate assignment. Both accommodations provide support to students with disabilities and gives them a chance to reach their goals and still learn in the general education classroom setting which is a requirement of IDEA.
IDEA gave students with disabilities a chance at an appropriate education. It requires schools to provide students with disabilities appropriate accommodations and modifications that will help them be successful. It was aimed to help protect students with disabilities from being discriminated against in an educational setting. Under IDEA, any student who meets eligibility for services is mandated to have an IEP that is written by a team that gives appropriate accommodations and modifications to help that student progress.
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