SOESD / Newsletters / The Source / May 2005 Source: Paul Rickerson
New Challenge for Teachers
The federal law that requires districts to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities was recently reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). While most of the new law becomes effective July 1, the U.S. Department of Education has yet to promulgate regulations to interpret the law. It is reported that these regulations may be released in December, 2005. Subsequently, states will need to realign their own laws and regulations to be consistent with IDEIA.
This law creates a number of challenges and perhaps some flexibility for regular and special educators. Although there are many changes in the new law, some of the significant changes are briefly highlighted.
IDEIA was aligned with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by requiring that all disabled students participate in state and district wide assessments with appropriate accommodations or participate in alternative assessments as indicated on their Individual Education Plan (IEP). These alternate assessments must be aligned with the state’s academic content and achievement standards.
Since NCLB did not specifically define highly qualified special education teachers, IDEIA includes a new definition. Special education teachers must be fully certified and licensed in special education and also be “highly qualified” if they teach core content subjects as defined in NCLB. Current special education teachers may be able to become “highly qualified” by meeting the high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation (HOUSSE) established by each state. While parents cannot request a due process hearing if a special education teacher is not “highly qualified,” school districts are required by NCLB to inform parents if their child’s teacher is not “highly qualified.”
A strategy used by regular education to see if students make progress from a specific instructional approach may be applied to the identification of students with learning disabilities. Although not required by IDEIA, a state’s regulations could replace the current ability-achievement discrepancy model for identifying students with learning disabilities with the use of a “Response to Intervention” (RTI) model. In RTI, the student’s limited response and progress to different instructional methods in reading for example, would be a key factor in determining that a student has a specific learning disability in reading.
If the parent refuses initial consent for placement in special education, the district cannot pursue due process but is also released from the law’s requirement of providing a free appropriate public education to the student. Some additional relief is that a district is no longer required to re-evaluate a student who is graduating with a diploma or when the student “ages out” of special education entitlement.
The content and meeting participants of the IEP have also changed under IDEIA. Beginning July 2005, the IEP must include a statement of why a student can’t participate in the regular state or district assessment and why the selected alternate assessment is appropriate. Although all IEPs require measurable goals, short-term objectives for each goal are no longer required unless the student is taking an off-level alternate state assessment.
The new law reaffirms the importance of the regular education teacher in the IEP team process but provides greater flexibility regarding when and how the teacher(s) participates. For example, an IEP team member isn’t required to attend a meeting if the parent and district agree that it is not necessary or agree that only written input is needed. In addition, changes can be made to the IEP after the annual meeting without convening another meeting if the parent and district agree and the district provides a written document of the changes.
However, this added flexibility will likely involve additional written agreements between the district and the parent. The Oregon Department of Education has revised the standardized IEP (www.ode.state.or.us/pubs/forms/iep/standardiepguid.pdf) to address IDEIA changes and has provided sample written agreement forms for use by districts (www.ode.state.or.us/pubs/forms/iep/agreedistparentsamform.pdf).
These and other changes in IDEIA (e.g. dispute resolution, discipline, private schools, etc.) are sure to provide teachers, specialists, and administrators a variety of challenges as they endeavor to understand the new regulations, provide staff development training, and implement new procedures and practices in the 2005-06 school year.
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