The 20th Annual Report to Congress was written immediately after the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This report reflects the greater emphasis the IDEA Amendments of 1997 place on measurable results, through improved accountability and data collection efforts. It also discusses school reform efforts that have been under way for several years. These changes are taking place at the national, state, and local levels and should result in positive changes for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.
This annual report highlights many of the recent changes in the legislation and also builds upon the information contained in the 19th Annual Report. It retains the overall structure (described below) that was first used in the 19th Annual Report. To assist the reader, the two reports have been cross-referenced where appropriate.
The report is divided into four sections, each representing one part of a conceptual framework (see figure 1). In this model, educational results for students with disabilities are envisioned as the product of three sets of factors: the context and environment in which education is provided, the characteristics of students, such as disability, race, gender, or poverty, and the school programs and services which they receive. As shown in the model, contextual/environmental factors are directly linked to student characteristics and to school programs and services. However, there is also a direct link between student characteristics and school programs and services. All three of these inputs influence the output, educational results for students.
Within each section of this report are a number of discrete modules that address current issues, highlight trends in data, and/or describe OSEP-sponsored projects (see figure 2). Writers of the modules included OSEP personnel and staff from OSEP-funded research and technical assistance projects.
The intent of the first section, Context/Environment, is to identify selected major societal and educational forces that affect delivery of services to children with disabilities. In this section, two overviews are provided. The first module highlights the changes in IDEA based on its reauthorization in June 1997. The second module contains an overview of state accountability systems with regard to students with disabilities. More information on accountability systems is included in the Results section.
The second section, Student Characteristics, contains five modules that focus on the students served under IDEA. The modules in this section highlight state-reported data and changes in IDEA for children ages birth through 5 and students ages 6 through 21 served under the program.
Also included in this section is the racial/ethnic composition of students with disabilities and gender as factors in special education eligibility, services, and results. Finally, in this section, the needs of children and youth with emotional and behavioral problems are addressed.
There are five modules in the third section, School Programs and Services. The first module discusses national trends over the past nine years related to special education teacher demands and shortages. The second module highlights the factors that support or impede the use of IFSPs with preschoolers. The third module reports data on educational environments for school-age children. In the fourth module, the status of the Part B funds, the new funding formulas set forth in the IDEA Amendments of 1997 for students ages 6 through 21, and the Preschool Grants Program are described, and highlights of a National Association of state Directors of Special Education survey on state usage of set-aside funds are reported. The fifth module describes the increase in use of interagency agreements to promote collaboration among agencies that serve students with disabilities.
The fourth section brings together all the components of the model by emphasizing national results in the field of special education. The standards-based reform movement is being implemented within the educational system, and special education is playing an increased role in these efforts. The first module describes the concept of standards-based reform and its implementation by states. The second module continues this discussion by describing state efforts in developing alternate assessments for students with disabilities. The third module presents data on secondary school completion for students with disabilities. The remaining three modules describe Federal efforts to ensure that IDEA is fully implemented. They are: OSEP-conducted state improvement and monitoring efforts, development of performance indicators for Parts B, C, and D of IDEA, and efforts of Federal and Regional Resource Centers to assist states in the implementation of the IDEA Amendments of 1997.
The modules in each of the four sections cover a wide range of topics that describe challenges and achievements in serving students with disabilities. Taken as a whole, the 20th Annual Report to Congress provides an overview of important issues affecting education for students with disabilities today.