Education in the United States has had a reputation of un-uniformity and mistreatment of certain groups especially students with disabilities. However, the recent past has yielded some advancement. Federal legislation has put into place three major laws that have lead to better treatment and higher quality education of students, especially those with disabilities. These laws are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, and No Child Left Behind.
Together these laws have formed the current education standard in the United States providing for better education for all students. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act History Historically, children with disabilities have had few rights and little protection when it came to education. Before the mid 1970s, it was not unusual for children with disabilities to be turned away from public schools and if they were able to attend a school, there was nothing in place to assure that these children were receiving the attention and assistance that they needed.
In the 1960s and 1970s parents of children with disabilities began to see that something had to change to allow their children to receive a quality education so families began suing state entities to gain access to educational services for their children (Smith, Polloway, Patton, & Dowdy, 2012). Congress decided to take a step forward and attempted to persuade states to provide educational services to children with disabilities and this led to the passage of the Education for all Handicapped Children Act (EHA) in 1975.
Education is a facet that is under the direct of state legislation; therefore, states were not required to comply with the new act. To persuade state governments to adopt the law, it was promised that forty percent of the funds used to educate children with disabilities would be reimbursed by the federal government (Smith et al. 2012).
This forty percent was never actually realized; the federal government actually only reimburses less than half the promised amount of funds. EHA was reevaluated by Congress in 1990. As a result, the law was changed to better suit the needs of children with disabilities and became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. IDEA remained active until the law was due for another reauthorization in 2004. This lead to the current version of the law: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.
Purpose The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) was enacted to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education, to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected, to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities, and to assess and ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities (34 CFR § 300-301).
The law covers children with basically any disability that impedes on their ability to learn in an educational setting without special assistance. IDEIA covers children from birth until age 21 with separate parts for children two years old and younger (part C) and children ages 3-21 (part B). (34 CFR § 300-301) Implications IDEIA was obviously written for children with disabilities, but there many forms and varying levels of disabilities.
The act defines a child with a disability as a child evaluated has having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance, an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services (34 CFR § 300-301).
The act states that children that are included in this definition should receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This law is the foundation for special education in the United States today. IDEIA sets the standard for how we educate children with disabilities. FAPE is the goal set forth for the educational systems.
Children should receive an education that meets the standards of the state educational agency from preschool through secondary school by way of an individualized education program (IEP) that leads to the attainment of the same diploma offered to children without disabilities at no cost to the parents. FAPE does not exclude parents from expenses that are incurred by parents of children without disabilities, but it does protect them from extra expenses that arise from the services that their child requires.
Also, for a state to meet the FAPE requirements, each student with a disability must have an individualized education program developed for them. An IEP is an extensive document developed by a team that includes the child, their parents, their teachers, the school administrators, and any other school personnel involved in the student’s education. IEPs address the child’s specific needs and how the school plans to meet those needs.
Schools must also allow students with disabilities to work toward the same degree or diploma that students without disabilities are also working toward. IDEIA also states that children with disabilities should be educated in the least restrictive environment or LRE. This means that students with disabilities should be educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate (34 CFR § 300-301). The LRE requirement has lead the emergence of inclusive classrooms.
Inclusive classrooms are general education classrooms where students with disabilities and students without disabilities are taught together. This is usually accomplished through a co-teaching model where one general education teacher and one special education teacher, share the responsibilities of teaching all the children in the classroom. This allows for more direct attention and instruction for the students who need it most (Smith et al. 2012). Summary
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act is our country’s special education law. It defines for the states what classifies students as having a disability and also provides guidelines for developing educational services that meet their needs. The law frees parents of children with disabilities of the financial burden that comes with the individual care and assistance that their child needs by providing federal funds to help offset the expenses for the school systems. Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.
History The Vocational Rehabilitation Act was written during the fight for equality amongst people in the United States. It was enacted to protect people with disabilities from discrimination because of their disability. This law paved the way for fair and equal treatment for people with disabilities. This legislation lead to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. Even though this act reaches past the boundaries of education, section 504 of the act is of particular interest on this subject (Smith et al.2012).
Purpose Section 504 states that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.
The act defines a person with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment which for such individual constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment; and can benefit in terms of an employment outcome from vocational rehabilitation services provided (Vocational rehabilitation act of 1973). This section provides protection for people with disabilities from discrimination in any establishment that receives federal funding. This includes all public preschools, elementary schools, secondary schools, and colleges and universities.
The law does not give individuals with disabilities more rights that those without disabilities, but it does protect them from discrimination based on their disability alone. Implications At first glance, it may seem that section 504 of this act and IDEIA overlap or are superfluous because of each other, but each holds its own purpose. Section 504 protects people without disabilities away from the educational setting as well. Section 504 also allows students with disabilities the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, whereas IDEIA only serves to the child’s education.
Section 504 gives people with disabilities the chance at living the life they want without the fear of discrimination. Summary The Vocational Rehabilitation Act protects people with disabilities from discrimination based solely on their disability. Section 504 of the act is particularly important to education because it provides discriminatory protection for an individual from any federally funded entity. This law laid the ground work for future laws for people with disabilities and for equal treatment for people with disabilities. No Child Left Behind History.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was proposed by President George W. Bush in 2001 and was passed into law in January of 2002 (Smith et al. 2012). The proposal received overwhelming support because of the increasing gap in academic achievement between groups of students in schools. NCLB acts on the premise that setting high and challenging standards for students and teachers will allow for great improvement in the classroom. The law provides that all students in the public school system will be proficient in core class subjects by the end of the 2014 school year.
Much like IDEIA, NCLB offers federal funding to schools that align their curriculum with the provisions set forth in the act. Purpose The purpose of NCLB is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments (No child left behind act of 2001). NCLB requires states to develop challenging performance standards for each grade level that are uniform across each district.
The schools must also administer high-quality academic assessments that evaluate whether or not students are meeting these standards. Schools are also required to submit a plan of advancement showing the current plan to close the achievement gap among students (No child left behind act of 2001). Implications NCLB effects all students in the public education setting. The act is a plan to improve the education of every student. This law changed education in the United States in a big way. With schools implementing challenging standards for all students, there was and still is a tremendous pressure to advance.
This pressure primarily falls on the administrators and teachers who, in turn, pass it to the students. NCLB also created accountability in the education system. The state performance assessment system gave teachers and administrators to see where they stand as compared to the standards that are set by the state (No child left behind act of 2001). It shows what areas need to be improved to allow more resources to be focused there. The pressure and accountability from NCLB raises the educational standard in the United States.
Teachers know what is expected on them in the NCLB system, but because the standards seem to take away some creative freedom in classroom education. Schools are required to make adequate yearly progress every year under NCLB. This system is in place to help assure that funds received under NCLB are used toward academic advancement of students. Adequate yearly progress (AYP) is achieved by having more students scoring proficient in a content area standardized assessment as compared to the previous year’s scores.
There is a system provided in the law for schools that do not make AYP and a plan to help them progress. If a school continually fails to make AYP it can be subject to a complete overhaul by the government. Summary NCLB is a federal plan to improve the education system in the United States. This law sets forth an accountability system of standards and assessments to close the academic achievement gap and bring all students up to grade level by the year 2014. Schools that align themselves with the requirements of NCLB can receive federal funding under the act.
NCLB may have unrealistic goals, but it is a start in the right direction to providing a better, more complete education to our students. Conclusion Together, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, and No Child Left Behind have changed the educational system in the United States. Our current standards and expectations are far from perfect, but education is headed in the right direction; toward higher standards and accountability and better learning conditions for all students regardless of their level of ability.
References Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities and preschool grants for children with disabilities; final rule, 71 Fed. Reg. 46540 (2006) 34 CFR pt. 300-301. No child left behind act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2002) Smith, T. E. , Polloway, E. A. , Patton, J. R. , & Dowdy, C. A. (2012). Teaching students with special needs in inclusive settings (6th Ed. ). Boston: Pearson. Vocational rehabilitation act of 1973, Pub. L. No. 93-112, 93 Stat. 8070 (1973).