History of Special Education
In 1975, the United States Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, also known as Public Law 94-142. This was later amended in 1990 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA was reauthorized in May 1999 and once again in December 2004. The most recent reauthorization was to align the IDEA with the federal law; No Child Left Behind Act.
One of the major principles of the IDEA is that all children are capable of benefiting from education. Education includes more than reading, writing, and math. “Specially designed instruction” includes self-help skills (feeding and toileting), speech and language services, remedial instruction in reading, math or written language, Braille instruction, as well as vocational training.
The IDEA guarantees that students will receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The purpose of FAPE is to provide a “basic floor of opportunity for students with disabilities by providing access to specialized instruction and related services that have been individually designed to result in educational benefit.” A FAPE is provided at no cost to the parent. The U.S. Supreme Court interpreted this to mean that schools will provide what is needed to educate students, but not everything that might be helpful.
Another intent of the IDEA was to educate children in the least restrictive environment (LRE). “To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities will be educated with children who are not disabled.” If a child is unable to be educated in the mainstream setting due to the severity of his/her disability, a continuum of services is explored by the educational team (i.e.: pull-out group in the resource room, reduced day, etc…)
There are “3 gates” that students must meet to qualify for special education services. They include: disability determination, adverse effect, and the need for special education.
Gate 1: Does the child have a disability? The child must meet the criteria for specific disability categories as outlined in the Vermont Agency of Education Special Education Regulations.
Gate 2: Does the disability adversely effect the student’s education? To be determined adverse effect, the student must fall at the bottom 15th percentile of same age/grade peers. Three out of five measures are used to determine adverse effect (grades, work samples, curriculum based measures, nationally normed achievement tests, criterion-referenced assessments).
Gate 3: Does the student need specialized instruction, which he/she cannot receive in the general curriculum?
The answer must be YES to all three gates for the student to qualify for special education
Once a student qualifies for special education services, the parent/guardian and the educational team meet to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP). This plan addresses the unique needs of the student resulting from his/her disability. An IEP includes services and annual goals. The IEP team meets, at a minimum, annually.
If you have further questions about special education, please contact the Director of Special Education.