Happy Birthday, IDEA!
By George Sugai
Professor Emeritus, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut
The 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is particularly meaningful to me and to students with disabilities for four main reasons.
First, my career as a special educator began in Aurora, Colorado in the Fall of 1974. Although we were definitely “attempting to figure things out,” we developed the district’s first IDEA-shaped resource rooms for elementary, middle, and high school students with emotional and behavioral disorders; we wrote many of the first IEPs; and we created and implemented some of the first behavior intervention plans. IDEA gave us the vision, expectation, accountability, and responsibility to greatly enhance our special education efforts. For the first time, the education of students with disabilities and their families became a protected right and a reality rather than an informal afterthought. In addition, special education became an integral component and priority in general education.
The Personnel Who Deliver the Promise of IDEA into the Lives of Children and Families: A Reflection on the 45th Anniversary of IDEA
By Jane E. West, Ph.D.
I began my journey as a special educator in 1973. My first job was as a paraprofessional for students with emotional disturbance. The program was intended to transition students who had been in psychiatric hospitals back into public school. Our classroom was housed in a trailer on the playground of an elementary school in the Bronx.
Fresh out of college with a degree in literature, I was very keen on poetry. With the support of the teacher in charge of my class, I developed a curriculum on poetry. Much to my delight, the students were all in. They wrote some magnificent poems. Shortly after we finished the unit, the principal announced a school wide poetry contest. Elated, I met with him and provided the students’ work for submission to the contest. After looking at the poems briefly, he returned them to me saying, “There is no way those students could have written those poems.” I was devastated.
A Milestone for Civil Rights: Celebrating 45 Years of IDEA
By Kanika Littleton
In the United States, over 7 million children and young adults receive special education programs and services through the Individualized Education Program (IEP). These students are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA encompasses the rights of students with disabilities to have access to the general education curriculum and to the greatest extent possible, be educated with their typically developing peers.
Forty-Five Years of IDEA-Funded Research Supporting a
“Free Appropriate Public Education”
By Douglas Fuchs and Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University
On this 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), we reflect on the research that IDEA legislation (and its successive reauthorizations) has facilitated. More specifically, we discuss its focus, quality, and meaningfulness for children and youth with and without disabilities.
IDEA Deserves our Continued Passion, Advocacy, and Support
By Michael Norman
When I began an internship at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) in 1976, I knew little about special education and even less about state educational agencies (SEAs). I was a thirty-year-old doctoral student and former middle school principal. I had no idea that internship would change the entire trajectory of my professional life.