Individuals with
Improvement Act
(IDEA 2004)

P.L. 108-466  (December 3, 2004)

IDEA emphasizes the importance of three core concepts:

1. the involvement and progress of

each student with a disability in the general curriculum and extracurricular activities, and the need to address each student’s academic achievement and functional performance and the unique challenges that arise from the student’s disability;

2. the involvement of parents and

students, together with general and special education personnel, in making individual decisions to support each student’s educational success; and

3. the preparation of students with

disabilities for further postsecondary education, employment and independent living.

By reauthorizing IDEA in 2004, Congress confirmed that research and practice in special education and related disciplines over the past 20 years had demonstrated that an effective educational system:

  • must provide early intervention services that are based on proven methods of teaching and learning and replicable, peer-reviewed scientific research, when possible;

  • must maintain high academic standards and clear performance goals for students with disabilities, consistent with the standards and expectations for all students;

  • must provide appropriate and effective strategies and methods to ensure that students with disabilities have maximum opportunities to achieve those standards and goals;

  • must use effective, research-based reading remediation programs, so all children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade; and

  • should include Universal Design for Learning: a philosophy of initially designing and delivering products and services, such as curricula, instruction and evaluations, in multiple, flexible methods of presentation. For example, materials may be presented orally, visually, as videos or DVDs, in song, as books on tape, or as hands-on activities.

The object of extending Universal Design, an architectural concept, into the school and classroom was:

  • to benefit as many potential users as possible;
  • to reach out to students with diverse abilities;

  • to accommodate students who speak various languages;

  • to prevent students with different learning needs from feeling stigmatized; and

  • to “get it right” the first time and not have to “retrofit” educational services or products.

Another underlying focus of IDEA 2004 was the desire to reduce paperwork and staff time spent in meetings. For example, under certain circumstances: (1) staff may be excused from PPT meetings; and (2) there are alternate ways to participate in PPT meetings.

More information on IDEA:

Every child age 3 through 21 (or younger, if they have already graduated with a high school diploma), who has been determined by appropriate evaluations to be a child with an identified disability and who, for that reason, needs specialized instruction, has the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). To be eligible for services, a child must fit into a federal category, as explained in detail on pages 16-18. This right is guaranteed by federal and state laws.

In 1975, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, an entitlement statute, was signed into law to insure that the educational rights of children with special needs were protected and that school districts provided these children with an education that met their needs. In 1990, this act was amended and renamed the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, and in 1997, it was reauthorized. In 2004, IDEA was again reauthorized and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA or IDEA 2004). Additional modifications have been authorized since that time, and the statute is now referred to as “IDEA” once again.


How to Be an Effective Advocate for Your Child

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