The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the nation’s federal special education law that outlines rights and regulations for students with disabilities and requires special education.
Its overall purpose is to ensure that all students with disabilities have a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education and independent living.
One of the significant issues with special education is the identification of students who need special education. Regardless of the method used for identification, federal law requires each state to identify and evaluate all children who have disabilities.
Most states follow the RTI method for identification. In an RTI model (response to intervention), a student must first receive quality instruction in a general education classroom before formal evaluation for special education services.
Teachers gather data to determine whether the student is benefiting from that instruction. Only after educators determine that a student is nonresponsive to quality research-based instruction would a formal evaluation of special education occur.
The evaluation process is also guided by IDEA. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the student’s eligibility for special education. There are no fewer than two possible ways that a child may be held a candidate for evaluation
- The parent may request their child to be evaluated
- The school may ask to assess a child
The initial evaluation is the first formal evaluation of a student which the school will administer. A series of assessments are issued to determine if a child qualifies to be “a child with a disability” under IDEA 2004.
The IDEA 2004 requires an examination of the developmental, functional, and academic needs of a child.
During the evaluation, a team of designated members—parents, child teacher, and qualified professional—are the only ones required.
The school district is required to cover all costs of evaluation for children in public schools. The individual administering assessment must meet the specific criterion needed for the test creators.
There are many different ways to evaluate a child. They include:
- Standardized testing
- Norm-referenced assessment
- Criterion referred assessment
- Curriculum-based assessment
In measuring a child’s progress, Standards scores usually show how a child is performing about what they are capable of achieving.
If the results show that the child is ineligible for special education under IDEA, then the information from the evaluation can be used to develop a section 504 accommodation plan.
Usually, there are no shortcuts to a thorough and effective evaluation. When a dispute arises about the results, the parent then has a right to request an independent assessment at the school district.
It’s noteworthy that, if a child is found eligible for special education, he can be categorized under Autism, Deafness, Deafblindness, Developmental delay, Intellectual disability, Multiple disability, Orthopedic impairment, Speech impairment, Traumatic brain injury, Visual impairment, and Emotional disturbance.
The federal legislation specifies that every school must provide FAPE (free appropriate public education) for every student. In other words, every student with a disability has an appropriate public education at no cost to the parents.
Though the real meaning of “appropriate education” has raised controversies, many parents have agreed that appropriate education maximizes a child’s academic position.
So to help facilitate appropriate decision-making and services for the disabled child, a due process requirement has been set in the IDEA. The due process is meant to resolve a disagreement between parents and schools.
Parents, therefore, have been given the right to an impartial hearing as long as they have evidence.
Some steps that parents may follow to the due process procedure include: seeking an informal resolution to the problem by speaking with the principal or manager of the child’s school. Among others who can be approached include; the special education teacher or a section 504 administrator.
Additionally, parents can file a complaint with the local board of education through the district superintendent or manager or file an IDEA formal complaint with the state’s education department.
It is also the district’s responsibility to cover all evaluation costs for children enrolled in public school. It is also the responsibility of the district to assess the child in all areas related to the suspected disability and not be discriminatory.
Parents/guardian surrogate consultation
Parents must therefore be consulted, provided notice before any proceedings. As mentioned earlier, the district will cater to all costs of the evaluation. The parents are equal members of the evaluation team. And a copy of “a guide to parents’ rights” must be given to the parent upon request.
Least restrictive environment
Speaking of the environment, the special education students must be taught in the least restrictive environment. In other words, their educational needs should be similar to those of a student without a disability.
The whole enchilada should be normalized as much as possible. Though future cases will help in classifying the meaning of the least restrictive environment. Most common LRE scenarios include:
- General education classroom support
- Partial mainstream/ Inclusion classroom
- Special education classroom
- Specialized program outside the school
Individual education program
Usually, a document is written. A document specifies what special education support and services a child identified under IDEA 2004 will receive.
The document is called IEP ( Individualized educational program). The IEP team members include parents, district representative, general education teacher, the child, and interpreter of assessment tests. The essential components of IEP include:
- Current skill level of the student
- The annual goal for the student
- Progress tracking of the student
- Special education services for student
- Duration of service for the student
- Participation in the mainstream classroom for the student
- Testing adaptation for student
- Statement of transportation for the student
Though significant changes have been made, parents continue to be complete and equal partners of development. Changes to the IEP process were made practical by July 2005. The following revised:
- Measurable annual goal
- Elimination of the requirement to include short term goals
- Reporting on a child’s progress
- Service-based peer research.
With good objectives, IEP meetings are held to review and update the child’s IEP regularly. The teams meet once a year as required by the special education law. However, groups can request to meet at any time.
Speaking of Evaluation, nondiscrimination must be observed as required by the federal. This means that all skills—community skills, functional skills, academic skills, self-care skills, social skills—should be tested without bias.
Procedures for initial evaluation must be conducted within 60days of receiving parental consent. A team of evaluators—parent, child’s teacher, and qualified interpreter—are designated, team members.
Among the assessments test is the screening test. Screening tests assess reading skills, maths skills, and spelling skills. Other parts tested involve speech, behavioral/ social/ emotional/ perceptual skills, and adaptive skills.
After all the assessments are complete, the results are gathered in a report called evaluation team report (ETR). A meeting is then scheduled to discuss the results.
The parent received a copy of the ETR document and an explanation of the reviewed results and discussed them as a team.
The results of the evaluation and placement are kept confidential. In other words, they are kept in secrecy.
Though the student’s parents may have access to the record. The IDEA part. B and C regulations protect PII contained in education and early intervention records. The following are to be kept confidential:
- The child’s name
- Name of the parent
- Address of child
- Personal identification of the child(reg no)
The following will be considered a violation of confidentiality;
- Sharing the IEP to an appropriate staff member
- Sharing critical information applying to an individual staff member
- Not involving the child’s teacher to read
- Denying a parent access to a student’s record.
Finally, a personnel development program has been established to improve services and results for children with disabilities. The board requires the department to do at least one of the following activities.
- Developing, evaluating, and disseminating innovative models for recruitment, induction, retention, and assessments of teachers
- They are developing and improving programs for paraprofessionals to become special education teachers.
- Promote instructional leadership and improved collaboration between special education teachers
- Promoting partnership and collaborative personnel programs
Also, the school district must report the number of students with disabilities each year. On the other hand, the IDEA’s new regulations clarify that states must address significant disproportionality in identifying and placement of children with disabilities.
The local educational agencies ( LEA) are an integral team responsible for ensuring that the district is complying with the procedural and substantive requirements of the IDEA and that the students are receiving FAPE.
Teachers must also make sure a student’s IEP complies with IDEA. A teacher must ensure the IEP is current.