HomeLearning DifficultiesLegal Rights & AdvocacyIndividuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004

IDEA 2004 Close Up: The Individualized Education Program (IEP)

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By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute

Non-Participation in General Education.

An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with non-disabled children in the regular class and other activities, is required in the IEP.

This provision is unchanged in IDEA 2004 and continues to require a justification for any decision to remove a child from the general education classroom. Students with learning disabilities must have access to the general education curriculum regardless of the instructional setting, i.e., resource room, self-contained classroom. In addition, students with learning disabilities must be provided the same opportunities to participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities as their peers without LD.

Accommodations for Assessments.

A statement is required in the IEP of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on state- and district-wide assessments, including assessments mandated under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and whether the child will participate in the regular assessment or an alternate assessment.

IDEA 2004 eliminates the term "modifications" in relation to assessment because the term has become associated with changes that alter what the test measures. An accommodation, on the other hand, commonly means changes in format, response, setting, timing, or scheduling that don't alter in any way what the test measures or the comparability of scores. States are required to develop guidelines on the accommodations allowed on state assessments.

Accommodations for classroom instruction and classroom tests may differ from accommodations allowed on state assessments. All accommodations and the type of instruction or testing for which they are intended should be included in the IEP.

As stated earlier, students with learning disabilities should be expected to participate in the regular assessments given to all students - either with or without appropriate accommodations. A decision to participate in an alternate assessment would indicate that the student is incapable of accessing grade-level curriculum and is, therefore, not a candidate for a regular high school diploma.

Parents may find that an accommodation their student has been using in classroom instruction and on classroom tests is not allowed by state guidelines during state assessments. In such cases, it might be wise to pursue the matter with state officials.

PARENT TIP: Make sure that decisions regarding the appropriate accommodations for state and district-wide assessments are made carefully and are based on your child's individual needs, and not his disability category. Take time to understand the particular assessments that your child is expected to take, including the content, presentation, response format, and administration (setting and length). You should also fully understand the decisions that will be made regarding your child based on the assessment scores, such as grade promotion or graduation.

Description of Services.

The IEP must include the projected date for the beginning of the services and program modifications, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications. IDEA 2004 maintains this requirement, which is the school district's commitment of resources to the student.

PARENT TIP: Unfortunately, there is sometimes a "disconnect" between the goals to be achieved through the special education and related services, and the frequency, location, and duration of the services your child is to be provided. Parents should be certain that the frequency of services is adequate to meet the student's needs and will result in reaching the goals. Timely remediation of skill deficits, such as reading, is essential if students are expected to access the grade-level general education curriculum.

Transition Services.

Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, and updated annually, the IEP should include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills, and the transition services the child needs to reach those goals.

IDEA 2004 eliminates the requirement to begin consideration of a student's transition service needs at 14 and adds a new requirement for measurable postsecondary goals. This requirement aligns more closely with the process for determining academic and functional goals and then delivering the special education and related services needed to meet those goals. The addition of appropriate transition assessments also helps clarify that transition planning should be based on, and driven by, data as well as the student's interests.

Beginning not later than one year before the child reaches the age of minority (which is 18 years of age in most states), a statement must be included in the IEP that the child has been informed of his or her rights that will transfer on reaching the age of majority. IDEA 2004 maintains this provision. Schools may choose to deliver this notification earlier than one year prior.

Candace Cortiella's work as Director of the nonprofit The Advocacy Institute focuses on improving the lives of people with learning disabilities, through public policy and other initiatives. The mother of a young adult with learning disabilities, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

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