What are some ideas that might be proposed for the upcoming reauthorization to IDEA?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a different entity from Special Education, thus you were asking two different questions. Since eNotes allows for one question per thread, I hope you'll repost your question about proposals for changes to Special Education as a separate thread.

IDEA by Congressional law must be reevaluated, emended and reauthorized every five years. It was emended and reauthorized in 2004. It was meant to be reevaluated and reauthorized again in 2006, but the debate over Specific Learning Disability and other points caused a deferral of reauthorization to 2013 (it has not at this date been reauthorized: Learning Disabilities Association of America).

The debate occupying the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations and delaying reauthorization is the legal definition of Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Originally the legal definition of SLD was that it is "a life-long struggle with learning due to neurologically based intra-individual processing deficits." The 2004 reauthorization changed that one to a legal definition of "a transitory condition that can be overcome with prescribed educational supports."

The change being debated is one that would remove the "neurologically based" component and expand on the"transitory" element that can be "overcome" through intervention with "educational support." The latest theory of Dr. Reid Lyon asserts that early childhood testing for all students will correctly identify children with SLD while concurrently identifying children who do not have SLD and allow for the earliest possible Special Education intervention for all tested children. It is a major concern for some that the reauthorization of IDEA may do more to remove SLDs from neurological and, therefore, cognitive deficits.

A proposal for the new reauthorization of IDEA might address either or both of these points. For instance, you might develop a proposal that will necessitate the continued validation of the neurological base of SLDs. On the other hand, you might think of a proposal that would validate the need to continue with the inclusion of a cognitive-neurological evaluation and render a change to only a comprehension assessment evaluation incompatible with IDEA.

LDA has serious concerns that the focus of the 2004 criteria for identification of a student with SLD has changed. That change has moved from determining if a child has a disorder in neurological processing as shown through a cognitive assessment, to a system that identifies students struggling to learn ... [as] for students who are not meeting “State approved grade level standards,”... (Learning Disabilities Association of America)