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Impact of IDEA

Impact of IDEA on Special Education in America
Nathaniel Rauen
Sped 100
December 1, 2013

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Impact of IDEA

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Change in Special Education
Equality is something that America has been striving for since its inception. In the 1970’s
equality finally arrived in the education system. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act
(EAHCA) brought equality into the education system as well. EAHCA was passed in 1975 and
stated that children with disabilities must be educated by school districts (Peterson, 2007).
EAHCA was the start of equality in the American education for children with disabilities. Two
years later, in 1977, every school in America was abiding to the EAHCA rules and regulations
(Peterson, 2007).
The year 1990 was a big year for children, and adults for that matter, with disabilities. In
1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) further defined what it meant to have
disabilities (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2008). According to the then
newly passed ADA law, the laws purpose was to provide a clear and comprehensive national
mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Also, in 1990, the EAHCA was amended and its name was changed to Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA for short. IDEA called for many changes and additions to
EAHCA. One of the biggest changes made was that high schools were now required to focus on
outcomes and assisting disabled children with the transition from high school to post-secondary
life (Peterson, 2007). This was a big change in special education as teachers had to shift their
focus from teaching the students to preparing the students for life after high school.
The next major change for special education teachers came in 1997. IDEA was added to
and now stated that students with disabilities were to be included in statewide and nationwide
standardized tests (Peterson, 2007). The newly renovated IDEA also stated that regular education
teachers of the student with disabilities had to be members of the Individualized Education
Program (IEP) committees as well (Disabilities, 1998). This change meant that all teachers had
to be educated on signs and symptoms of students with disabilities.

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In 2001 a major change came to special education in America by way of No Child Left
Behind (NCLB). The law called for all students, including students with disabilities, to be
proficient in reading and math by the year 2014. According to Dr. Judy A. Schrag, if students
were to meet the goal of achieving proficient levels in reading and math by the year 2014,
students with disabilities would need access to the general education curriculum. She also stated
that students with disabilities cannot be responsible for showing knowledge about something in
which they are not required to learn (Schrag, 2003).
The most recent change in the IDEA law happened in 2004. There were several different
changes from the 1997 changes. The most notable being that more data on outcomes is required.
Another big shake up to the law requires schools to provide adequate instruction and
interventions for students to help keep them out of special education (Peterson, 2007).
Teachers in Special Education
In 1975 an education for students with disability became a legal right, thanks to the
EAHCA signed by President Gerald Ford. The law, EAHCA, provided an education for students
with disabilities. The law however did not specify the degree of the education received. It wasn’t
until 1982 and the Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley,
which stated that all children with special needs be educated in a program that meets their
specific needs (Esteves, et al., 2008).
Teachers were given a new task with the 1997 revision of the IDEA law. Each student
with disability must have an IEP. This meant that each school need to form an IEP team made up
of at least one special education teacher of the child, one regular education teacher of the child, a
representative of the public agency, and an individual who can interpret the instructional
implications of evaluation results (Peterson, 2007). This meant that every teacher needed to be
able to diagnose and document students with disabilities.
IDEA has had an impact on regular education teachers, and their classrooms, as well.
With the fifth clause in IDEA stating that students with disabilities must be educated in the least

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restrictive environment. This means, for regular education teachers especially, that they must be
able effectively educate students with disabilities as well as students in the regular curriculum.
Impact on Students with Disabilities
Since the passing of EAHCA in 1975 education for individuals with disabilities has
improved greatly. The special education laws in affect have contributed to the education of over
five million children a year since 2000 (Office of Special Education Services, 2010). The
students with disabilities that are being educated are also graduating from high school. Over
250,000 students with disabilities graduated high school with a regular education diploma last
year (Office of Special Education Services, 2010).
IDEA has impacted students with disabilities not only in the classroom, but also in the
employment line. Young adults and adults who had IEP’s in high school are employed forty
percent more than they were twenty years ago (Office of Special Education Services, 2010). This
statistic speaks to the fact that students with disabilities are getting an amazing education which
leads to opportunities in life after school.
Conclusion
IDEA has been a major asset in educating students with disabilities. Since the initial
passing of IDEA in 1975 the life of students with disabilities have increased greatly. Students
with disabilities have received had better opportunities both in and out of the classroom since
1975. Students with disabilities have gained access to the regular education and have been
educated at a higher lever prior to the IDEA law being passed. Teachers have been able to better
educate students with disabilities with their further understanding of how to do so. IDEA has not
only added in the education of students with special needs; IDEA has also helped provide
equality for all students. Equality, of course, is what America has been striving for since its
inception.

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Works Cited
Disabilities National Information Center for Children and Youth with The IDEA
Amendments of 1997 [Online] // http://nichcy.org. - Nichy, June 1998. - November 2013. http://nichcy.org/.
Esteves Kelli J and Rao Shaila The Evolution of Special Education [Journal]. - [s.l.] : Principal,
2008. - November/December.
Office of Special Education Services Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With
Disabilities Through IDEA [Online] // Education. - U.S. Department of Education, November 22,
2010. - November 29, 2013. - http://www2.ed.gov/.
Peterson John A Timeline of Special Education History [Online]. - July 17, 2007. - November
27, 2013. - http://admin.fortschools.org/.
Schrag Judy A No Child Left Behind [Report]. - [s.l.] : The Special Edge, 2003. - p. 16.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Facts About the Americans with
Disabilities Act [Online]. - Septemeber 8, 2008. - November 27, 2013. - http://www.eeoc.gov/.