A key theme of the new Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), reauthorized in 1997, is greater academic expectations and opportunities for inclusion for children who have special needs. This is expected to be achieved through increased collaboration between general and special educators and support personnel.
Increased Expectations for Academic Achievement and Inclusion
Evaluation & IEP
The evaluation must review how your child is doing compared to age- and grade-appropriate peers. Your child should be learning the same information as the children her age and grade are learning in a general education classroom. The evaluation must also identify your child's strengths as well as needs.
Your child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must encompass the general education curriculum, and note any necessary adaptations to it. It must also reflect that your child will participate in class, district, and state assessments, and that the appropriate modifications necessary to measure what your child knows and can do are implemented. If your child cannot participate in some of the regular district and state assessments, the IEP must specify alternative mechanisms which will be used to identify how he or she is progressing.
The IDEA includes and defines some new terms that are aimed at strengthening the requirement to provide services to your child in the regular classroom. "Specially-designed instruction" means adapting content, methodology, or delivery of instruction, to address your child's unique needs and to ensure his or her access to the regular curriculum. "Supplementary aids and services" are defined to mean aids, services, and other supports that are provided in general education or other education-related settings to enable children who have disabilities to be educated with children who do not have disabilities.
The IDEA requires states to demonstrate that they have established goals for the performance of children who have disabilities that are consistent, to the maximum extent appropriate, with goals set for children who do not have disabilities. States must also set performance indicators to assess the progress of children who have disabilities in academic achievement, drop-out rates, and graduation rates. Further; states must report every two years on progress made toward reaching the goals that are set. In addition, whenever the state reports on assessment information for children without disabilities, it must report on the progress of children who have disabilities.
Participation in non-academic and extra-curricular activities
IDEA says children who have disabilities must be exposed to the variety of educational programs and services available to children without disabilities, including art, music, industrial arts, consumer and homemaking education, and vocational and physical education. Children who have disabilities are also entitled to an equal opportunity for participation in non-academic and extra-curricular activities, including counseling, athletics, transportation and health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs, and referrals to agencies and employment.
Support and placement
IDEA continues to require that children who have disabilities be educated in a regular class with appropriate supports, services, aids, and accommodations, unless their needs cannot be met in that setting. For the first time, IDEA specifically allows services to be provided to, or on behalf of, the student classified as a special education student. This includes services, such as training and professional development for the general education teacher to help him or her be more effective in educating classified students. These training services can also be provided to other students to help them be more sensitive and supportive of inclusion. Some examples of training include sensitivity training and initiating a peer buddy system. …