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IDEA in Practice

By Mary Beth Klotz

35th Anniversary of IDE A In 1975, the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) guaranteed access to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment to every child with a disability. Subsequent revisions to the law, as reflected in the IDEA, have led to an increased emphasis on access to the general education curriculum, the provision of services for young children from birth to 5, transition planning to postsecondary settings and employment, and accountability for the achievement of students with disabilities.

This November, in honor of the 35th anniversary of IDEA, the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) hosted a celebration in Washington, DC. As part of the anniversary celebration, inspirational stories, pictures, and videos from individuals from across the country have been posted on OSERS’ 35th anniversary of IDEA website. Read about the marking of this anniversary and view the shared stories at: https://www.osep-meeting.org/idea35th/.

Obama Signs Rosa’s Law

On October 5, 2010, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law (S. 2781), replacing all references in Federal law to the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability.” The law will not change the coverage, eligibility, rights, responsibilities, or definitions of the disability, or compel states to change terminology in state laws for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Common Core Standards Initiative

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for K–12 English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt. The Common Core Standards were developed by the National Governors Association and National Association of Chief State School Officers and have been adopted by 38 states and the District of Columbia, to date. Some national discussion is taking place on the application of the Common Core Standards for students with disabilities as well as with English language learners. For additional information, see http://www.corestandards.org.

Alternate Assessments for Students With Significant Cognitive Disabilities

The Department of Education recently awarded grants to two consortia of states to develop a new generation of alternate state assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The new assessments will be designed for a wide range of students with disabilities and aligned with the Common Core Standards. They will measure knowledge of reading and math in grades 3–8 and one grade in high school. The grants were awarded to the National Center and State Collaborative Partnership, a consortium of 18 states, the District of Columbia, and Pacific Rim territories, led by the University of Minnesota; and the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System Consortium, a group of 11 states led by the University of Kansas. The alternate assessments are expected to align with the assessment systems being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), recent awardees of the Race to the Top Assessment program grant. Availability of the new alternate assessments is anticipated for the 2014–2015 school year. For additional information, see the October 4, 2010, press release (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases).

In Court: Charter Schools and Students With Disabilities

As the number of public charter schools has grown dramatically across the country in recent years, attention increasingly has focused on how they serve, or more accurately, fail to serve students with disabilities. A recent class due process complaint was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of advocacy groups against the Louisiana Department of Education claiming that students with disabilities were denied their educational rights under IDEA, including a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana rebuilt New Orleans public schools, promising excellent education for all students. Significant resources have been spent to reform New Orleans’ public school system and to create numerous charter schools. This due process complaint alleges failure by the state department of education to ensure students with disabilities receive services required under IDEA and documents numerous violations in more than 30 schools, including charter schools and schools operated by the Recovery School District. For example, one of the violations cited was “unlawful barriers to educational services” in reference to the significant underrepresentation of students with disabilities in many charter schools in New Orleans. To read the full due process complaint and to follow its resolution, see: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/case-docket/new-orleans-special-education.

Mary Beth Klotz, PhD, NCSP, is NASP Director, IDEA Projects and Technical Assistance