Celebrating 35 Years of IDEA

Uploaded by usedgov on 22.11.2010

Before 1975, access to an appropriate education was denied for most students with disabilities.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals with severe disabilities were housed in state institutions,
and schools only educated approximately one-fifth of students with disabilities. In addition,
many states had laws that actually prohibited education in regular schools for students
with intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, or students who were deaf, blind,
or both. Children with disabilities in this time seldom became students. They were characteristically
not welcomed to the schools; they were, in fact, affirmatively excluded from the schools
under laws that required that, that were adopted in the early 20th century by every state legislature
in the union. Those laws followed shortly after the statutes in every state creating
isolated, distant, segregated institutions, public institutions, to house "the disabled,"
as the statutes frequently said, for life. In 1975, Congress enacted the Education for
All Handicapped Children Act, Public Law 94-142. This act articulated a compelling national
mission to provide a free, appropriate, public education for all children with disabilities
in the least restrictive environment. Well it brought to children and adults with disabilities
all of the glories of a decent, equal citizenship. It turned out that people with disabilities,
including significant intellectual disabilities, have, like all human beings, enormous capabilities.
With those capabilities supported and freed by the schools their lives have become thoroughly
different. By the late '70s you could see smiles on the faces of family members of children
with disabilities, and you could see in school yards all over the country children playing
together. People with disabilities were no longer isolated and hidden; they were among
us and with us and participating and contributing. Many now, thought to be uneducable 30 or 40
years ago, now attending college and doing very well, thank you. The Education for All
Handicapped Children Act supported states and localities in protecting the rights and
meeting the individual needs of students with disabilities. It indicated specific Federal
mandates to improve how children with disabilities were identified and educated, to evaluate
the success of these efforts, and to provide due process protections for children and families.
In 1986, amendments to The Education of All Handicapped Children Act authorized programs
for early intervention with infants and toddlers with disabilities. In the 1990s, the law was
reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, reaffirming the requirements
for a free, appropriate public education and strengthening the law's commitment to greater
inclusion in community schools, furthering the movement of students with disabilities
towards being educated in general education settings. The 1990 amendments also provided
for federally sponsored research and supports, which included initiatives for transition
services from high school to post-secondary education and adult living for students with
disabilities. Without a doubt, the transition services provision in IDEA is one of its most
important components. This provision requires all who are working with students with disabilities
to take the long view in the planning process with an eye clearly focused on quality of
life outcomes. In 1997, amendments to IDEA continued to focus on access. The definition
of access, however, was broadened to encompass not just physical access to schools, but also
access to the general education curriculum, leading to higher academic expectations and
greater outcomes for students with disabilities. The focus must be on instruction that uses
individualized approaches for accessing the general education curriculum. Schools support
learning and high achievement for all with increasing opportunities for students with
disabilities to be educated to the maximum extent possible alongside their nondisabled
classmates. In 2004, amendments to IDEA increased state and local accountability for educating
students with disabilities. There is no pressure on schools to work hard on behalf of students
who are excluded from the accountability system. For this reason, it is important that all
students, including all students with disabilities, participate in the state accountability system,
and for this reason, IDEA now mandates that students with disabilities be included in
all state accountability programs. In addition, the 2004 amendments included provisions to
ensure that special education personnel are highly qualified, to reduce disproportionate
representation of minorities in special education, and to expand methods for identifying students
with specific learning disabilities and school procedures for disciplining students with
disabilities. Instructional programming and the amount of supports provided are driven
by student needs. In the last 35 years, IDEA has led to improved access, accountability,
and achievement for students with disabilities. As of 2008, 95% of students with disabilities
were being educated in local, neighborhood schools, and almost 6 million students with
disabilities were educated in general education classrooms for at least part of the day. Achievement
due to IDEA extends beyond K-12 education. For infants and toddlers, the number of children
birth to age five receiving services under Parts C and B of IDEA increased dramatically,
and families became part of the planning and education process. Graduation rates for students
with disabilities receiving a regular diploma have increased 43% since 1995-96, and since
that time, there has been a 24 percentage point decrease in high school drop-out rates.
Enrollment rates at both two and four-year colleges have almost doubled for students
with disabilities since 1993, and more students with disabilities hold jobs after leaving
high school than ever before. One of the most striking facts is that over the past 20 years
there has been marked increases in employment, post-secondary education, and community living
measures across all disability groups. Likewise, significant headway is being made in improving
academic accomplishments and successes in an environment of heightened standards and
expectations. It's an American idea. Today's child will be tomorrow's citizen. Education
shapes our expression of liberty. And separate - well that has never been equal. We are the
students of a new day, brave scholars who claimed desk and classroom, book and school,
until the self-evident truths expressed throughout victories gave this nation's first declaration
renewed life. Each mind is beautiful. Strength has many forms, and we are all able.