Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

Computerized IEP Generators: The Promise and the Peril

Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

Computerized IEP Generators: The Promise and the Peril

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: SPECIAL EDUCATION FROM        THE 19TH CENTURY THROUGH THE POST-BROWN PUSH        FOR REFORM III. BACKGROUND: THE EAHCA/IDEA        A. Key Provisions of the IDEA        B. Judicial Interpretation of the IDEA'S FAPE             Requirement: Rowley v. Board of Ed IV. THE EVOLUTION OF THE CIEP GENERATOR        A. Four Primary CIEP Generator Paradigms        B. Advances in CIEP Software Functionality V. THE TROUBLE WITH CIEP GENERATORS        A. The Individualization Problem        B. Software Shortcomings and Hardware            Inadequacies VI. ADDRESSING CIEP GENERATOR-RELATED ISSUES        THROUGH LITIGATION VII. ANALYSIS AND PROPOSALS        A. Recommendations for Future Legislation        B. Recommendations for Future Research VIII. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

The Senate report accompanying the 1975 passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act ("EAHCA" or "Act") stated that of the approximately eight million children with disabilities in the U.S. at that time, more than half were not receiving an "adequate" public education. (1) Such provision of inferior or inappropriate educational services to exceptional students had been the norm since the naissance of the public education movement, (2) and it was precisely this inferiority that special education advocates and Congress hoped to address with the Act.

The Act relies on the Individualized Education Program ("IEP") as the primary tool for defining each child's educational program and as legal documentation that the school has developed a truly individualized plan. (3) This documentary requirement created a huge paperwork burden for teachers and administrators, who then sought to reduce their administrative load and streamline processes by relying on computer software to help in IEP creation and data management. (4) However, rather than freeing teachers from bureaucratic demands, thereby allowing them to spend more time teaching, the use of computerized IEP ("CIEP") generators may actually hinder provision of special education by limiting individualization and erecting other technological roadblocks.

This paper will provide a brief historical overview of special education in America, up to and including the enactment of the EAHCA/IDEA, as background for the ensuing examination of the positive and negative aspects of CIEP generator use as the software has evolved. Particular emphasis will be placed on program functionality and possible hindrances to IDEA compliance. Case law concerning CIEPs will then be examined and synthesized with what we have discovered about program functionality to arrive at recommendations for future legislation concerning CIEP generator use and future research to better understand the size and nature of the asserted CIEP problem.

II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: SPECIAL EDUCATION FROM THE 19TH CENTURY THROUGH THE POST-5ROIUVPUSH FOR REFORM

Early in the nineteenth century, local governments and civic groups began to establish specialized institutions for treating the mentally and physically ill, the "retarded," and people with other disabilities, such as deafness and blindness. (5) These institutions were often located in the country because it was thought that sickness and other societal ills were caused or exacerbated by city life; (6) therefore, transporting the afflicted to rural asylums supposedly helped provide a cure by distancing them from the urban catalysts of their infirmities. (7) However, rather than proffering therapies and education, such residential institutions often became "sadis[tic]" and "inhum[ane]" warehouses of the mentally, physically, and morally inconvenient. (8)

By the early twentieth century, the movement to institutionalize the disabled was on the decline, (9) and reformers were advocating for re-integration of the disabled into the community. (10) Despite these changes, the educational situation for disabled children did not greatly improve in the succeeding decades. …

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