1. Zero Reject/FAPE. This mandate specified that all children, regardless of ability, are guaranteed a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Local school systems were mandated to serve children ages 6-17 (and ages 3-5 and 18-21 if the state also educated nondisabled children in those age groups).
2. Nondiscriminatory Identification and Evaluation. In order to address inequitable practices resulting in misidentification and placement of individuals into special education (such as culturally and linguistically diverse children) this mandate identified several essential safeguards. These included assessments which were: (a) administered in a child’s primary language, (b) given by qualified personnel, (c) tailored to assess specific areas of need (not just IQ tests), (d) comprised of more than one procedure, (e) selected so as not to discriminate against the child’s disability, and (f) administered by a multidisciplinary team in all areas related to the suspected disability.
3. Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP must be written for each student with an identified disability. Each IEP is uniquely designed to meet the individual needs of a particular student. A team of individuals known as the IEP team meet annually to develop or up-date the IEP for all students receiving special education or related services. The IEP team consists of professionals, parents, and child, as appropriate. IEPs must include the following statements or information: (a) present levels of educational performance, (b) measurable annual goals including benchmark or short term objectives, (c) objective criteria and evaluation procedures, (d) specific special education and related services, (e) extent of participation in general education and an explanation of non-participation, (f) modifications to the general education environment, (g) projected dates for initiation and duration of services, and (h) annual evaluation of progress made on the IEP. IEP teams can convene at any time, but must meet at least annually.
You can view a sample IEP by linking to the Teaching Tools section of our web site.
4. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). PL 94-142 mandates that “To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institution or other care facilities, are to be educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in the regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” The concept of LRE necessitates that children with and without disabilities should be educated together unless it does not meet the child’s needs. “The philosophy is to move as close to the normal setting (regular classroom) as feasible for each child” (Kirk, et. al, 2000, p. 73).
5. Due Process. Due Process is a system of checks and balances to ensure accountability and fairness for students with disabilities and their families. “Families and school districts can exercise their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process…” (Hunt & Marshall, 1999, p. 15). These procedures include the following: (a) written parental permission for evaluation for special education, (b) written parental permission prior to placement in special education program, (c) parent right to review and question any of their child’s records, (d) parental right to an independent educational evaluation for their child, (e) parents (and school officials) have a right to a hearing, to present evidence, to have a lawyer present, and to call and confront witnesses, (f) parents and school officials have the right to appeal, and (g) confidentiality concerning students and their families must be maintained.
6. Parental Participation. Parents have the right to be included in placement decision, IEP development and evaluation. Schools should collaborate and communicate consistently with family members. Parents also have the right to access their child’s educational records.
Major Features of PL 99-457
• Establishes state-level interagency councils on early intervention.
• Institutes individualized family service plans (IFSPs)
• Provides case management services to families
• Maintains a public awareness program that includes a comprehensive child find system and a central early intervention resource directory.
• Requires the development of a multidisciplinary, coordinated interagency model of service delivery.
• Establishes procedural safeguards.
• Acknowledges the family to be the central focus of service.
• Provides for smooth transitions as a family moves from one service or system to another.
• Facilitates development of a comprehensive system of personnel development.
As of 1986 a new part of IDEA came into action. Originally, the program didn’t have the ability to be implemented in all fifty states due to the fact that public schooling was limited to a certain age range. However, the new section, PL 99-457 grants infants, toddlers, and their families an individualized family service plan (Education Law, 1998), thus allowing early intervention in order to best provide an education to the child in question. As such, the amendment is known as the “Early Intervention Amendment.” (Education Law, 1998). This particular amendment caters specifically to children who are anticipated to have problems in school. The goal is to reduce the restrictions on potential student’s environments by better preparing them for school life and what to expect from the educational system.
In 1990, PL 101-476 changed the title of the special education law to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), also known as the “Person First” law. The intent of the law was to recognize children first and the disability second. For example, “learning disabled students” are now referred to as “students with learning disabilities.” All phrases putting the term “handicapped” before children were deleted. In addition to a change in the language, PL 101-476: IDEA added two categories of eligibility and mandated transition services.
The next amendment, a 1997 amendment came as a change to Public Law 105-17. This amendment gave parents the right to participate in making education decisions for their disabled children (Parent Rights in the Special Education Process Under IDEA PL 105-17, 2006), a right not previously granted to parents. This huge step for parents gave them the right to receive educational notifications concerning their student, give informed consent to education plans and programs, and participate in voluntary mediation should it be necessary. In essence, the new amendment took the education plan out of educational agencies hands, where it formerly rested in full, and dedicated a fair deal of responsibility granting rights to the parents of the disabled child. It encouraged a more informed and collaborative relationship between parents and educators.
The latest amendment was the HR-1350 Reauthorization came in 2004 with the resigning of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) and No Child Left Behind Act. The first goal of the reauthorization was to ensure that all disabled students were granted special education teachers equipped with the skills and training needed to provide the best education possible. Secondly, the law put into action for the first time tutoring programs for those disabled students who need extra help passing their required classes. This specific part of the act focused the attention on the students and their needs and away from educational agencies and their extensive legislation, piles of paperwork, and endless meetings. A solidifying factor to the previous goal is the third and final statement of the new HR-1350 Reauthorization. This final statements grants more “flexibility and control over the students’ education to parents and teachers and principals,” (President’s Remarks at the Signing of H.R. 1350, 2004) thus taking the control firmly out of the hands of those who guide from the sidelines and into the hands of those who know what the student needs most.
Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.
There are two primary ways in which children are identified as possibly needing special education and related services: the system known as Child Find (which operates in each state), and by referral of a parent or school personnel.
Child Find. Each state is required by IDEA to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, states conduct what are known as Child Find activities.
When a child is identified by Child Find as possibly having a disability and as needing special education, parents may be asked for permission to evaluate their child. Parents can also call the Child Find office and ask that their child be evaluated.
Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child’s teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal, but it’s best to put it in writing.
Parental consent is needed before a child may be evaluated. Under the federal IDEA regulations, evaluation needs to be completed within 60 days after the parent gives consent. However, if a State’s IDEA regulations give a different timeline for completion of the evaluation, the State’s timeline is applied.
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Step 2. Child is evaluated.
Evaluation is an essential early step in the special education process for a child. It’s intended to answer these questions:
• Does the child have a disability that requires the provision of special education and related services?
• What are the child’s specific educational needs?
• What special education services and related services, then, are appropriate for addressing those needs?
By law, the initial evaluation of the child must be “full and individual”—which is to say, focused on that child and that child alone. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability.
The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.
If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). They can ask that the school system pay for this IEE.
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Step 3. Eligibility is decided.
A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA. If the parents do not agree with the eligibility decision, they may ask for a hearing to challenge the decision.
Step 4. Child is found eligible for services.
If the child is found to be a child with a disability, as defined by IDEA, he or she eligiblefor special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, a team of school professionals and the parents must meet to write an individualized education program (IEP) for the child.
Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled.
The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:
• contact the participants, including the parents;
• notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
• schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;
• tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
• tell the parents who will be attending; and
• tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.
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Step 6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.
The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are full participating members of the team. If the child’s placement (meaning, where the child will receive his or her special education and related services) is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well.
Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the IEP is written and this consent is given.
If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a state complaint with the state education agency or a due process complaint, which is the first step in requesting a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available.
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Step 7. After the IEP is written, services are provided.
The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.
Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents.
The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child’s progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children’s progress.
Step 9. IEP is reviewed.
The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to participate in these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP, and agree or disagree with the placement.
If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation, or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with the state education agency.
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Step 10. Child is reevaluated.
At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is sometimes called a “triennial.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a child with a disability, as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child’s parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.