The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal special education law which requires that student with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).
1. What happens first?
Assessment and Eligibility Determination in all areas related to suspected disability
Assessment usually consists of standardized tests and authentic assessment. Standardized tests must be non-discriminatory. For example: a) students who do not speak English should not be assessed in English, but in their most familiar language; b) students with visual impairments should not receive assessment of their basic ability (cognitive function) which relies on seeing. They may need to have their vision tested, but assessment of ability or mastery should be conducted in a way that fosters the most accurate results; c) a language-based test of ability (IQ) ;should not be given to a student with a language-based disability because it would not result in accurate information. Authentic assessment is what we see and experience of a child. Sharing our direct knowledge of a child is a way of confirming the results of standardized tests. Parents and teachers often have a rich fund of experience with a child that will help tailor instruction of maximum benefit.
2. What happens next?
Development of Goals and Objectives
Goals and objectives should be based on assessment, and should focus on using a student’s strengths and interest to address areas of identified need. The best objectives contain specific information about what we want a student to achieve, how instruction will support the mastery of the goal, and are measurable.
3. Then What?
Placement and Level of Service Decision
Placement and level of service decisions should be made on the basis of what will be needed to make adequate progress on goals and objectives. The law requires that here be a continuum of services, but favors placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that students with disabilities should, to the greatest extent appropriate, be educated with their non-disabled peers. Level of service should be written into the IEP very specifically and include information bout what services are need, who will deliver the service, how frequently, and for how long.