The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004
On December 3, 2004, President Bush signed IDEA 2004 into law. The bill had almost unanimously passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S Senate. Figure 5.3 depicts the process that resulted in passage of the new law. Appendix A contains a table that depicts the major changes of IDEA 2004.
The primary goal of Congress in passing IDEA 2004 is to align IDEA with NCLB, thereby increasing accountability for improving student performance. Thus, IDEA 2004 includes measures to increase academic results for students with disabilities such as requiring the use of scientifically based practices. The law also defines highly qualified special education teachers in line with the definition in NCLB. Additionally, Congress sought to reduce the paperwork burden on teachers, expand options for parents, and reduce litigation.
Congress stated that the IDEA has successfully ensured access to educational services for millions of children and youth with disabilities. Nevertheless, implementation of the IDEA had been impeded by low expectations and an insufficient focus on applying scientifically based research on proven methods of teaching children and youth with disabilities. Specifically, Congress stated that having high expectations for students with disabilities and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum would assist them to be prepared to lead productive and independent lives. Moreover, IDEA 2004 sought to support high quality, intensive preservice preparation and professional development based on scientific research. Congress, in passing IDEA 2004, also sought to encourage schools to develop schoolwide approaches to reduce the need to label children as disabled and to provide assistance to all children who need it. Indeed, one of the major purposes of IDEA 2004 is
providing incentives for whole-school approaches, scientifically based early reading program, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and early intervening services to reduce the need to label children as disabled in order to address the learning and behavioral needs of such children. (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1401(c)(5)(F))
In IDEA 2004, Congress made significant changes to the law. Some of the areas affected include the IEP, discipline, assessment, attorney’s fees, “highly qualified” teachers, scientifically based instruction, and funding. Readers should note that these are changes in the federal law. When this book was completed, regulations implementing IDEA 2004 still had to be written by the U.S. Department of Education, and states still must pass legislation or write regulations regarding these changes.
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