Gordon on the IDEA Inclusion Debate
New on Westlaw: Stacey Gordon, Making Sense of the Inclusion Debate Under IDEA, 2006 B.Y.U. Educ. & L.J. 189. From the introduction:
This article will demonstrate how the most recent federal legislation regarding IDEA, the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (the 2004 Reauthorization), reinforces the historical tensions between access and process, and outcomes and accountability. The 2004 Reauthorization emphasizes the conflict between individualized treatment and general mandates for all students. The 2004 Reauthorization, with its focus on accountability, sets forth new amendments that continue to fuel the inclusion debate. Its emphasis on accountability stems from the promulgation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which applies to both disabled and non-disabled students.
From the passage of the EAHCA to the 1990 reauthorization of IDEA to the recent reauthorization of the 2004 Reauthorization, educating students with disabilities has been rather contentious. Throughout the legislations' development, competing themes of access versus accountability and process versus outcomes have shaped the inclusion debate. To what extent should children with disabilities be involved in general education classrooms, and to what extent should their curriculum be modified from that of their peers? In addition to these questions, legislators and special educators disagree as to the extent to which accountability standards should be used for students with disabilities and how these accountability measures reflect the effectiveness of the educational process for those students.
This article analyzes the controversies surrounding the full inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classrooms by looking at the interplay between IDEA's main educational priorities for students with disabilities. The article will also consider purposes behind the EAHCA, the courts' interpretation of IDEA, and the recent amendments to the 2004 Reauthorization and will demonstrate a recent shift in the educational priorities for students with disabilities from a focus on access to an increased attention on accountability. The article will then propose that further development of education policy for students with disabilities requires explicitly recognizing and balancing the tensions that exist among the laws that pertain to educating students with disabilities.
Part I of this article provides a brief overview of the legislative history of laws that address the education of students with disabilities, demonstrating the legislature's beginning focus on access to education and the initial tension within the requirements of IDEA. Part II analyzes judicial interpretations of the inclusion debate as well as the dispute in educational circles by focusing specifically on requirements for adhering to IDEA's least restrictive environment provision. Part III analyzes recent amendments to IDEA and the tension between individual-focused decision-making and general mandates on testing. Finally, the conclusion suggests proposals for refocusing the inclusion debate in order to mediate between conflicting priorities and create an educational environment where students can succeed.