Special Education Idea Mandates, Research Paper Example
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Significant amendments to the original law since 1975 have been made to improve Special Education and related services, in order to ensure students with disabilities receive a quality free public education, was the intent of Congress when it enacted these changes under IDEA, according to the Senate Report (1997).
The US Congress sought to strengthen and improve IDEA by empowering parental participation in decision making, to provide strategies that will ensure curriculum development and reforms, to place greater focus on teaching and learning by reducing paper work, to provide assistance to agencies to reduce the cost of special education and related services to disabled children, to address recruitment strategies to address racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity, to improve school security to ensure more conducive learning experience, and promote non-adversarial means among parents, children and educators as the key strategies to solve social issues (Senate Report, 1997)
The benefits that will be transmitted to the target group in the final analysis will depend considerably on the implementation process, the available resources, and the leadership capability in the various school districts, especially to conduct periodic assessments and adjustments to ensure compliance across school districts.
Shriner and Spicuzza (1995) lay out what the formal assessment and evaluation procedures of IDEA were intended to provide, and should be used in measuring the benefits and disadvantages of the legal mandates, with respect to Special Education for children suspected to have disabilities. They argue that the legal mandate sought to ensure Special Education Services were made available to the largest population of children and youth, that the decisions to deliver these services are fair and ethical, and all legal requirements for evaluations are implemented with consistency across states, and to utilize proper monitoring and compliance procedures.
Hulett (2008) argues that the legal mandates for students as they relate to IDEA amendments were built on a six component cornerstone, namely, informed parental participation in the decision making regarding their children education, Due Process, Individualized Education Program (IEP), Non-discriminatory Identification, Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), and Zero Reject. Hulett (2008) went further to say that symbiotic relationship exists between these components and any negative impact caused on one will affect the efficacy of the others.
The purpose of the paper is to review the benefits and disadvantages of these legal mandates, as they relate to Special Education under IDEA amendments, and to determine whether the services delivered to these students are realized according to the intent of Congress.
Parental Participation was made into a legislative language through consent embedded in Section 614. This benefit to parents was that they were now to be more involved in all form of evaluation, so that they get more complete picture of their children educational program, according to Senate Report (1997).
The rising number of students with disability led to the insertion of key provisions in Section 611 (b/5) which prohibit eligibility to be made on the basis of a lack of instruction or limited proficiency in English, according to the Senate Report (1997).
Advantageously from the perspective of disabled students, this provision forces evaluation to consider extenuating and environmental variables affecting students’ performance. This in effect reduces the number categorized as in need of special education, as well as increases the efficiency of resource allocation to special education services. Additionally the number of students that would be psychologically damaged for perhaps the rest of their academic life would be similarly reduced.
However, a major disadvantage of the provision is that the assessment which had be done every three years, will create a tremendous amount of paper work, because students evaluation has to be accompanied by supporting documents to ensure parents are not turned off by the process, as well as the provision of evidence that they have been properly notified, as required by the legal mandate.
In cases where the number of students in any school district are beyond the capability of the operating personnel, the schools involve may be hindered in their capacity to deliver the required services, and may result in parents truing to private institutions to conduct evaluations of their children, with the cost being covered by the schools system.
Another downside to the privilege grated to parents is the fact that many may not have education beyond certain grade level and may not be able to fully grasp the information being communicated to them by experts with years of training and experience, who may very well feel that their work were being impeded by the requirements of this legal mandate.
On the other hand, parents who are adequately educated will be able to fully utilize the participatory privileges afforded them to reduce bias and discriminations that may be in the programs and help to chart successful careers for their disabled children beginning in the early stages of their lives, especially through the use of due process.
A significant addition of the 1997 amendment affecting students with disabilities was made by Congress to ensure balance to school officials’ obligation to school safety and the conduciveness of the school environment to learning, while these students receive FAPE (Hulett, 2008).
An immediate benefit to these students was that they will have to be disciplined in the same manner as students that had no disability except for special situations. This of course would help them to retain their self esteem and avoid the attachment of certain stigmas to them in the critical formative stage of their lives.
Students with disabilities who have committed offences using weapons are required under the due process aspect of the legal mandate, has to be removed to alternative educational setting for 45 days , and while being located there has to be subjected to behavioral interventions plans that had to be written, validated and sanctioned before executed, accorded to Hulett (2008).
This aspect of the due process provides adequate protection for these disabled students as well as the opportunity for experts to evaluate their unique situations, in order to develop appropriate solutions that will enable them to receive free access to public education (FAPE) in the least resistance environment (LRE).
The intervention plan according to Section 615 (K) (10) (c) differentiate behaviors into three categories, namely expected and inappropriate and list the negative and the positive consequences of these actions, to ensure that students placed in alternative educational setting due to their behavioral problems are processed appropriately with the hope to achieving the expected behavioral changes in them in the future (Hulett, 2008).
However, scholars argue that schools do not have the services of full time trained specialists the intervention plans required as a result of the legal mandate as it relates to due process, and as such students with disability may be constantly deprived of the services that should be delivered to ensure they are provided with educational curriculum similar to that of those who are not disabled (Hulett, 2008).
Students with disabilities who have been found guilty of misconduct and are to be punished and subjected to placement change, can benefit from the application of a manifest determination of their conduct within 10 days of the actions being committed, according to Hulett (2008). In this process, which is applicable to all categories of students, a determination is made as to whether any relationship had existed between the misconduct that had been conducted and the disability, prior to the final decision being made.
In cases where these connections are accurately determined, these students no doubt will be treated differently in terms of less severe of the punishment compare to those without disability, and manifest determination would then have served to benefitted these students according to the legal mandates of due process.
The amendment also provide benefits for disability students who has been assigned to interim educational settings that are not located in their school environment, in that provisions are included to ensure that they continuously participate the general school curriculum, as well as have services and modifications dictated by the IEP, according to Hulett (2008).
Critically, the behavioral problems that have caused these students to enter into new educational settings are also treated using behavioral interventions that will enable them to conform to set goals and objectives established by the experts.
The bottom line benefits for disability students placed in interim setting, seems to be congruent with the intent of Congress when they legislate the mandate into being, because their educational curriculum remain uninterrupted, their behavioral problems are subjected to interventionist treatment to generate expected behaviors, and they are paying for the consequences of their actions, all at the same time.
This mandate, which was established by the precedent set in Honig v. Doe (1988) according to Hulett (2008), where the Supreme Court ruled that there are no exceptions to the provision, even if disability students pose danger to others, can negatively affect students ability to cope if the interim educational setting does not have the staffing to ensure the environment is protected and conductive to learning as well as adequately staffed with the behavioral experts needed to work with these students over the period of time they are placed in these facilities. Failure to achieve his may result in these children leaving interim educational setting facilities worse off behaviorally than when they had first entered the location.
Under Public Law 108.446 section 615, procedural safeguard notice require schools district to test and explain all the pertinent elements of this package, which include students rights to an independent educational evaluation, their right to due process hearings, and also to pursue civil actions in a court of law, once all appropriate procedures have been followed, according to Hulett (2008).
The benefits accruing to disability students from this ruling is the fact that the cost for these independent evaluations has to be borne by the school districts, and these students gets the benefit of second opinions, which they can used to validate or invalidate the evaluations received from the school system. Parents at the end of the process can pursue their remunerations in the court of law, should the school district refuse to pay them, and will also have more confidence in the final decisions that are made in terms of where their children receive FAPE under LRE.
The right to dissent was also reinforced by three new amendments in section 615 in 2004, and these were the right o present a complain not only for parents but for any party including the school system, the addition of due process complaint notice, and the adding of statute of limitations of two years for the bringing of action, according to Hulett (2008).
Beneficially, students and their parents can bring actions against school districts within two years of graduation to recover damages that otherwise may have remain unresolved prior to the passing of the mandate . Additionally parties that may be legally capable may also be able to present complaints on behalf of students that may not even be related to, in pursuit of justice, according to Hulett (2008).
Children classified as needing Special Education based on their disability status, stands to benefit under the enactment of IDEA, through public law No. 94-141 and No.108-446 section 615 (b) (2), where the right of a surrogate parent was inserted, according to Hulett (2008). This provision, according to Hulett (2008), catered for special education recipients whose parents cannot be identified, cannot be located by public agency, or are wards of the state under particular laws of the state.
Children whose parents have had their natural parental authority extinguished, or have deceased, can be adopted by foster parents, who can legally able to continue their educational development, as long as they remain compliant with the laws of the states they reside in, according to Hulett (2008).
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Rothstein (2000) essentially defines the Least Restrictive Environment component as a vital aspect of IDEA, when the state that it is one of the primary principles of the mandate for educating with disabilities with children who are not disabled to the maximum extent possible in regular classroom settings.
The enactment of the law concerning Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), came into being as a result of the precedent set in the case Pennsylvania Association for the Retarded v. Pennsylvania (1972) and Mills v. Board of Education (1972), which was brought to the courts to receive protection for children with disabilities, while ensuring access to education with non-disable students (Hulett, 2008).
A major conditionality of this program is the that it is regarded as major deterrent to discrimination, in that no one individual under the law is prohibited from unilaterally determining the planned placement or educational program for any child.
The role of the IEP team to determine the extent to which students with disabilities are being educated with their peers to the maximum intent possible, without being removed, except in the case of severe disabilities and the inability to address those needs through aids and supplementary services, are critical to the maintenance of the Least Restrictive Environment for children with disability that require special education.
In terms of benefits, these students will first be given the opportunity to perform in an ideal environment with their non-disable peers, and will allow special education experts to make the necessary accommodations as well as measure their academic performances at the same time, with minimal impact from a discrimination perspective.
Related Services that are available to disable students to ensure they receive the same education as normal students with their annual progress assessment include adaptive physical education, psychological services, special transportation, interpreting services, occupational services and speech language pathology, and auditorial services, according to Hulett (2008).
Additionally, benefits to students requiring special education under the IDEA mandate in LRE include a continuum of services that involve variation models of consultations, collaborations, residential placements, hospitalizations, and special day schools, among others, according to Hulett (2008). These services would also be formulated based on the assessed needs of the disabled students, and as such benefits delivered will vary situationally from 1% to 100 %
Federal regulations framework for ensuring IDEA, appears appropriate for students with disability, when it comes to procedures that will help to determine their successful placements. The procedure criteria demand a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), annual assessments, students’ conformation with IDEA provisions, placement locations be near their places of residence, prior assessment of the harmful effects of the services that will be rendered, and the positioning of these students in the same locale as non-disabled students, according to Hulett (2008).
It could be argued that too many resources are being spent on these children, and it would have been more economically effective to remove them to other more conducive environments where all these students are in the same category, and allow the delivery of non-disabled students’ education to continue unimpeded.
Nationally, the government by legislating this mandate as it relate to LRE, may jeopardizing the overall academic development of the country, in that other countries that use different and more effective processes may produce larger quantities and more proficient students in the future, and generate higher levels of industrial productivities, compare to the USA, and attract larger amount foreign direct investment through better competitive advantage.
The argument could also be extended that considerable educational delivery times are being lost nationally across school districts, because of the time being spent delivering additional services to students, and these times could be spent more efficiently by teachers in classrooms without disabled students.
The case of A.B. ex.rel D.B. v. Lawson (2004), where the parents of a student with disability argued that the reason that their child had difficulty reading and writing despite having above average intelligence, was because he or she was not receiving FAPE, as a result of being placed in an inappropriate environment, could be used to support the point. The parents further contend that their child was not getting enough attention, and what the Federal government was imposing on their child was not having the right impact on their child (Hulett, 2008).
In the case of McLaughlin v. Holt Public School Board of Education (2003), the US Court of Appeal for the South ruled that the student placement in another case, in a neighborhood school was not a LRE, and private placement like what the parents in A.B. ex. Rel. v. D.B. Lawson (2004) had advocated for unsuccessfully one year later, was what was required, according to Hulett (2008).
The framework for LRE may be appropriate for children, but parental involvement can be detrimental to the effectiveness of the delivery program, bearing in mind that because of the limited educational capacity of many of these parents, they may involve the school in several unnecessary judicial litigations that not only waste the time of the expert teachers, but also stretch the financial capability of school districts to meet these commitment and to maintain the staff required in the process.
Hulett (2008), inferred that in an effort to .deliver FAPE to all students in LRE, Congress delivered a misunderstood tenet with respect to the mandate, due to the observations that many parents are of the opinion that regular classrooms are the least restrictive environment, rather than the least restrict placement on a continuum. Children as a consequence, may suffer psychologically as a result of their parents’ attempts to place them in environments that are not conducive to their educational development, especially after and during cases that involve months of litigations and several changes in LRE.
The fact that prior to the passage of IDEA, 1 million students were being excluded from the educational process due to their perceived disabilities, made the Zero Reject concept; which is to ensure education for all students between 3 and 21 years regardless of the presence or absence of disability, a critical component for the reversal of the trend.
According to Boyle and Weishaar (2001), school districts, based on the legal mandate of IDEA that brought Zero Reject into being, can no longer exclude students from public schools, due to the nature and extent of their disability, but has to identify and evaluate them, then deliver the appropriate educational program.
The benefit from this component of IDEA, which many classify as compulsory education, extends even further, and seems excellent, in that schools are required to begin identifying students from birth to 3 years old, and start the evaluation process before they are brought in to the FAPE program. This will ensure that by the time they are in the age qualifications range, there are data available to more scientifically analyze their educational competence for the type of classrooms environment they will be place in.
A possible downside from this program is the possibility that many school districts may not have the staff as well as the finance to maintain the program, and when this is compounded by the fact that each student is different, and no one program can be designed to fit all, the delivery of Zero Reject will challenge the resource and competence of all schools systems, especially those that are in poor rural and urban locations.
The inexactness of the science and the possibility that students with disability can become disruptive despite the additional services being provided, as well as the inordinate attention being given by teachers, according to Yell (2006), brings into question real issues that negates the effectiveness of the Zero Reject program.
However, schools desirous of being successful in their Zero Reject IDEA mandate may use the Daniel R.R. v. State Board of Education (1989) as a guide to reduce the number of confidence sapping litigations. In the case, the El Paso (Texas) Independent School District placed six year old Daniel in regular pre-kindergarten program and early childhood for half of each day respectively, but the teacher’s progress reports caused him to be pulled from regular classes and permanently assigned to the special education environment. This led to protest and litigation in the court by Daniels’ parents, according to Hulett (2008).
The case proved beneficial to the entire country, in that it resulted in the Sixth Circuit Court orchestrating a two part trial test for lower courts to utilize in the process of determining whether a school has complied with the Zero Reject mandated by Congress. In the final analysis the court ruled in favor of the El Paso (Texas) Independent School District, so that the case could now be used as a precedent by schools across the nation to ensure their programs can proceed with minimal interruptions.
Parents and their children under Zero Reject provisions can place their children in private schools once the school system has been unable to provide the appropriate education in LRE, based on the precedent set in the case Burlington School Committee v. Department of Education. In interpreting the law many luminaries conclude that if a school fails to provide appropriate education to students, the school has to reimburse the parents who took the initiative and secure private placements that fulfill the LRE requirement, as long as they gave the school authorities prior notice of intent (American Federation of Teachers, 1996).
On the contrary, they would not be reimbursed if they fail to inform the school and went ahead and secure placements for their children after refusing to use facilities that are available schools nearest to their children places of residence, according to American Federation of Teachers (1996).
Non-discriminatory Identification manifest itself strongly in the evaluation and assessment of student identified under IDEA, that requires special education based on their disabilities. This component of IDEA demands that children be first given a comprehensive initial evaluation before becoming recipient of any special education services, in order to minimize being exposed to unnecessary and different forms of discrimination that may emanate from individual or group service deliverers across school district educational operations. The decisions that will be made according to Hulett (2008), has to be made on the actual data collected from these exercises, after thorough examinations from trained personnel.
Hulett (2008), argument that the six pillars of the IDEA legal mandate from Congress has symbiotic relationships among them, such that the loss or diminution in one component, could prove fatal to the effectiveness of the others, comes to life under the Non-discriminatory Identification aspect of the process, in that before schools can conduct any eligibility evaluations, the parents of these children must provide informed consent evidence by signing the appropriate forms, which require them to specify that they understand and are in agreement with assessment procedures that will be carried out.
Thus being aware, these parents can object to certain results and use due process to ensure other hearings as well as seek other placements, if in their opinion the recommended facilities do not meet their expectations, in terms of their safety and conduciveness to their children receiving FAPE under LRE.
However, during assessments, students in general stands to benefit non-discriminatively, in that experts will be obliged to use instruments that are technically and or psychometrically sound, to conclusively and objectively decide the appropriate programs that will best serve them, base on the nature and severity of their disabilities, according to Hulett (2008).
The amendment to IDEA in 2004 has also served to improve the quality of the assessment of students having disabilities, due to the incorporation of intervention models that allows students to receive intensive interventions treatment, prior to being officially referred , as well as also from a financial perspective, according to the precedent established in the case Seal v. Loftus (1985). In this case, according to Hulett (2008), the parents who requested independent evaluation from the school districts, were not required to bear the cost of the evaluations, and at the end of the process they will have the peace of mind that their children are being given FAPE under LRE, as the Congress had mandated at the outset.
A major drawback from this Non-discriminatory approach is the impact of the financial cost and sustainability of the program on school district budgets, in that a chain reaction in terms of larger number of parents seeking second opinions, may render these institutions incapable of providing other services to students that are not deemed disable, as well as the enormous pressure that will be placed on the staff and support systems in meeting the 60 day compliance standard required by the legal mandate, after parents had signed the consent forms (Hulett, 2008).
The time schedule may also exacerbate the situation, due to the fact that some schools may still use the traditional assessment model, which require the implementation of a four stage process which has to augment the early intervention models, to ensure the highest level of efficacy has been achieved before final decisions are made.
The school districts are also inhibited by the lack of appropriate technology to effectively reduce the excessive demands on the specialists that are administering these additional services to disable students nationwide. These specialists have to work with high volume of paper work which with the appropriate level of technology place they would be able to more efficiently deliver the service demanded of them, so there will be minimal backlog in the system.
Hulett (2008) says it well when he opined, that special education is facing a daunting challenge of increasing the supply of teachers, while simultaneously seeking to upgrade the quality of the programs being offered. The intent of Congress to ensure non-discriminatory identification standard pervades the entire educational system was clear, but according to Hulett (2008), the urgency of developing and maintaining adequacy in the special education workforce has been heightened by the persistent shortage of teachers and the continuing high attrition levels from the field.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (1999), had projected that a demand schedule for more than 135, 000 special education teachers between 1998 and 2008, but continuing shortages has been reported in all but two states, makes this demand schedule unrealistic and unlikely to be met in the near future. This persistent shortage will trickle down to cause poor quality educational services being provided to students with disability in specific geographic locations, especially when it comes to ensuring non-discriminatory identification standards are maintained, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (1997) and the American Association for Employment Education (1999).
Particularly worrying according to Hulett (2008), was the fact that students experiencing behavioral disorders in poor rural and urban areas are severely affected by the failure of IDEA to deliver the services necessary to ensure the high quality of education under LRE are realized.
The problem was also compounded by the under representation of teachers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) group among those involve in teaching students with disability. According to the United States Department of Education (US DOE) (2001), in 1998 there was 14 % of these teachers compare to 25 % for the general population, and overall only were only 37.5% of all special education children needs were being met.
Olson (2009) made the environment even more disadvantageous for students with disability that will definitely need the successful implementation of Non-discriminatory identification in their schools, when he remark that the percentage of these CLD group of teachers in employment was been predicted to drop by 12 % by 2009.
Individualized Educational Program
Bateman (1998) described the essentiality of the Individualized Program (IEP), when he inserted that the heart of the law is the child’s written individualized program, and the core of entitlement of children to free appropriate public education, while describing the importance of the same component, Hulett (2008), writes that it is the legal roadmap for the development of children as well as the implementation of every major component of their educational programs.
The reason asserts Hulett (2008), was that it unearth prescriptive measures for all the questions that relates to each child’s program, in terms of the what, why, how, when, where and who. The program was designed to provide a legally binding answer to years of discrimination and the failure of the educational system to provide proper educational opportunities for disabled students.
Concerning the delivery of benefits to children with disability, IDEA mandates through IEP that eligibility meetings be held for all student in order to share the evaluation results, and initial IEP meetings be conducted to develop requisite educational programs and placements, and students performance in terms of goals and objectives be reviewed at least three times per year, according to Hulett (2008).
The rate of progress of each student by this approach, can be successfully monitored, with opportunities being provided for examinations of strengths and weaknesses, and corrections of weakness through emphasis on teaching and other services additions, to ensure compliance and promotions to the next grade level as the system mandates (Hulet,2008).
Congress, perhaps by reasons of the reported difficulty, had make enactments to increase the efficiency of IEP component of the IDEA system in 2004, according to Hulett (2008), when it (a) gave permission for the short term requirements for disable students to be removed, except in cases where they are taking alternate assessments that are linked to achievement standards, and (b) sanctioned the three year IEP pilot programs in 15 states, on the condition that they be reviewed annually.
These amendments as well as others may overtime, enable the students to exact greater levels of benefit than previously obtained, where the level of disadvantages seems numerous.
Students are at a disadvantage when IEP members are in short supply, as their rate of progress gets halted causing their expected education development to regress in terms of set goals and objectives. The process may also become costly to the point where districts may reduce their staff or the attrition rate may for economic and other reasons negatively impact their ability to provide IEP for entire student populations.
This scenario has been supported by Martin and Marshall (1996), who argue that even though IDEA is very specific about the IEP component, many school systems has failed to meet the requirements of the law, and this has resulted in several litigations. Delinquency in the school systems were also been reported by Hudgins and Vaca (1999), who both highlighted improper committee compositions, improper development procedures, failures to achieve schedule requirements for development, omissions of required portions of IEP, the absence of required services, delays in implementation , and most importantly school districts failure to provide services on a cost free basis. These all combined to make disable students in regions where these issues exist to suffer considerable poor service delivery from systems many may classify as broken to some extent.
It could be argued that the IEP in design was perfect, and could have met the goals and objectives as mandated by Congress, but a lack of funding, specific implementation, management and leadership skills, poor technology, rising levels of attrition among teachers, and unnecessary financial pressure from parental actions to ensure due process, among others, have all contributed to render the school systems inefficient, in terms of delivering the benefits disabled students required to achieve the established educational standards.
Hulett (2008) also pointed out that that number of litigations has led to schools professionals and parents to become uncertain when they meet around tables to design programs and placements for disabled students, because they do not know which recommendations will be subjected to due process or some other administrative or judicial review.
The legal mandate under IDEA was well designed in terms of appropriate intents for delivering the expected benefits for disability students numbering approximately 1 million, but poorly executed in many respects, due to a number of reasons, some even from the provisions of the parental participation in decision making, due process, non-discrimination identification procedures, individual education program, zero reject, and least restrictive environment components that undergird the provision.
The system is fraught with difficulties, despite the impressive number of benefits that are present, with visible management, leadership and implementation problems, deficiency in the safety and conduciveness of learning environments, the use and abuse of the due process privilege extended to parents , the cost of securing second opinions at the expense of schools districts, increase in the number of litigations, high attrition rates among teachers and the dwindling CLD ratio to the rising population of students requiring special education numbered being among the dominant issues of concern.
Congress has made the efforts to improve IDEA but there were no equal attendant infrastructural, technological and financial provisions to ensure the resources are in place to ensure more efficiency in delivery process.
Parents can make use of their due process privilege and challenge the assessment and placements of their children by experts, children can have their assessment using non-discriminatory identification process, disable students can be provided with various additional services, ranging from speech pathology, language services, psychological services, transportation services, as well as collaborative and consultation models to ensure FAPE is achieved in LRE, while other students in poor rural and urban areas of the country may have foster parents or surrogate representation, but their schools most often lack the staffing and adequate budgetary allocations to ensure they receive similar benefits like other disabled students.
For the present, the statement of Hulett (2008) remains a reality, in that the special education is facing a daunting challenge of increasing the supply of teachers, while simultaneously upgrading the quality of its programs.
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