Special Education

Final IDEA Regulations Clarify Key Issues

By Christina A. Samuels — August 04, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Department of Education has released final regulations on the latest reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, incorporating more than 5,500 comments from the public into guidance for states and schools that does not vary significantly from the draft regulations released a year ago, officials say.

The most closely watched issues in the rule-making process have involved teacher qualifications, diagnosis of learning disabilities, and special education students attending private schools.

Both the IDEA and the 4 1/2-year-old No Child Left Behind Act require states to take a sophisticated approach in improving the achievement of students with disabilities, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in an Aug. 3 conference call with reporters.

“While we’re very proud of the rule, we’re even prouder that we at the Department of Education intend to be a full partner with the states as they work on these more sophisticated approaches,” Ms. Spellings said.

“We clarified regulations in a lot of important ways and gave further guidance, which the community expects of us,” she added.

An unofficial version of the final regulations has been posted on the Education Department’s Web site—www.ed.gov—with a scheduled publication date in the Federal Register of Aug. 14. The rules become official 60 days after appearing in the Register.

The regulations are the guiding document that educators use in interpreting the provisions of the IDEA, which governs the education of about 6.7 million children with disabilities nationwide. The landmark law was first enacted in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. The final regulations were issued almost two years after the expansive law was last reauthorized by Congress, in November 2004.

Most of the comments received on the regulations, department officials said, dealt with three key issues: “highly qualified” teachers in special education, “response to intervention” as a method of diagnosing children with learning disabilities, and the education of children with disabilities who are placed in private schools by their parents.

The regulations clarified that states may create what the No Child Left Behind law terms a “high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation,” or HOUSSE, specifically for special education teachers. That standard can also be used for special education teachers who instruct students in more than one academic subject.

“There was confusion” on those two points, said Patti Ralabate, the special education adviser to the National Education Association. The NEA was pleased with the clarifications in that part of the regulations, she said.

The issue of teacher qualifications has taken on new importance because the NCLB law requires a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.

Intervention Method

Response to intervention, as a method of diagnosing specific learning disabilities, was mentioned briefly in the text of the 2004 special education statute, but it gets a far more expansive treatment in both the draft and the final IDEA regulations. However, in the final regulations, the Education Department clarifies that states can still use other methods of diagnosing children with learning disabilities.

By far, the largest percentage of students receiving special education services—about 49 percent—have “specific learning disabilities,” according to a 2003 report from the department that examined the demographics of students in special education.

Response to intervention, or RTI, aims to identify students with learning difficulties by requiring that all students-those potentially with learning disabilities and those without-be given a variety of “interventions,” or lessons, on subjects that are causing them difficulty. If a student fails to make progress after a series of interventions, further investigation may be warranted, according to the methodology. (“RTI Method Gets Boost in Spec. Ed.,” Nov. 30, 2005.)

Justine Maloney, the Washington representative of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, said her organization fought hard to have RTI not be considered the only way of diagnosing a child with a learning disability. Another commonly used method is called the “discrepancy model,” when a child’s achievement does not match his or her IQ-test score.

The position of the disabilities group is that RTI is a method that merits further study before it should be required, Ms. Moloney said.

The private school provision in the regulations requires a school district to provide special education services to a student who attends private school within the district, even if the student resides elsewhere.

That provision is a “total minus” for us, said Jeff Simering, the director of legislation for the Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington-based group for the nation’s large urban school systems. Private schools asked for the provision in their comments because it would make it easier for them to obtain special education services for their students.

State Regulations Next

Few in the education or disabilities community have had a chance to fully digest the regulations, which run to 1,700 pages. Most of that material is the Education Department’s analysis of and response to the many comments it received.

Luann L. Purcell, the executive director of the Council of Administrators of Special Education, said the regulations were noteworthy for coming out faster than the previous set, which appeared a full two years after the idea’s 1997 reauthorization.

The district-based special education administrators making up her group must now turn to the states, which will model their own special education rules after the federal provisions.

“Hopefully, they’ve all begun doing that,” Ms. Purcell said. “That’ll be the next big issue.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Be the Change: Strategies to Make Year-Round Hiring Happen
Learn how to leverage actionable insights to diversify your recruiting efforts and successfully deploy a year-round recruiting plan.
Content provided by Frontline
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Opinion How to Build Inclusive Classrooms
If teachers start from the premise that all students can make valuable contributions, that opens avenues to success.
3 min read
A group of multicolored people stand together looking in both directions
Ada DaSilva/DigitalVision Vectors<br/>
Special Education Quiz Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About Learning Differences?
Answer 10 questions to assess your knowledge on learning differences.
Special Education What the Research Says Co-Teaching: Valuable But Hard to Get Right
Teachers worry that cramped schedules, power struggles, and uncertainty can hinder learning for students with disabilities.
5 min read
special report v38 15 specialeducation 860
Fifth grade teacher Kara Houppert and special education teacher Laura Eisinger co-teach a class in Naples, N.Y., in 2018.
Mike Bradley for Education Week
Special Education Reports Teaching Students With Learning Differences: Results of a National Survey
This report examines survey findings about implementation of best practices for teaching students with learning differences.