The Evolution Of Special Education

A step into history..

What is special education?

Special Education is specially designed instruction provided by the school district or other local education agency that meets the unique needs of students identified as disabled.

When Influences Have Shaped Special Education?

Early 20th century: Parent Advocacy Groups

Parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities to the public eye. These groups gained momentum mid-century. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. The panel’s recommendations included federal aid to states.

1965: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

Congress enacted the Elementary and Secondary Act in 1975 to address the inequality of educational opportunity for underprivileged children. This landmark legislation provided resources to help ensure that disadvantaged students had access to quality education.

1972: Congressional Investigation

Two significant supreme court decisions PARC v.Pennsylvania (1972) and Mills v. D.C. Board of Education (1972) apply the equal protection argument to students with disabilities.

PARC deal with the exclusion of children with mental retardation from public schools.
Mills involved the practice of suspending, expelling and excluding children with disabilities from the District of Columbia public schools.

1975: Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA)

Known as Public Law 94-142

Congress intended that all children with disabilities would "have a right to education, and to establish a process by which State and local educational agencies may be held accountable for providing educational services for all handicapped children."

The law was passed to meet four huge goals:

  1. To ensure that special education services are available to children who need them
  2. To guarantee that decisions about services to disabled students are fair and appropriate
  3. To establish specific management and auditing requirements for special education
  4. To provide federal funds to help the states educate disabled students

1990: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Legislation enacted to prohibit discrimination based on disability and are also protected out of school - including employment and access to a range of public and private services.

ADA adopts the Section 504 regulations as part of the ADA statute. In turn, numerous “504 Plans” for individual students start to become more common place in school districts.

Section 504: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination due to disability by recipients of federal finance assistance.

1990: EHA replaced with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA replaced the EHA Act in order to place more focus on the individual, as opposed to a condition that an individual may have.

1997: Reauthorization of IDEA

This law ensures that children with disabilities have the right to more than access to education - they have a right to a quality education and quality outcomes.

2001: No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The No Child Left Behind Act authorizes several federal education programs that are administered by the states. The law is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act.

The U.S. Department of Education emphasizes four pillars within the bill:

  • Accountability: to ensure those students who are disadvantaged, achieve academic proficiency.
  • Flexibility: Allows school districts flexibility in how they use federal education funds to improve student achievement.
  • Research-based education: Emphasizes educational programs and practices that have been proven effective through scientific research.
  • Parent options: Increases the choices available to the parents of students attending Title I schools.

2004: Additional Reauthorization of IDEA

IDEA is aligned more closely with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the primary legislation affecting general education in the United States, as well as expands and clarifies many elements of the 1997 law.

Major Provisions of IDEA

1. Free Appropriate Public Education

2. Appropriate Evaluation

3. Individualized Education Plan

4. Least Restrictive Environment

5. Parent Participation

6. Procedural Safeguards

Which Laws Do What?