A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of All Children with Disabilities - 1996
Progress in Achieving the Full Participation of Students with Disabilities in Their Schools and Communities: Federal Initiatives
In 1975, when Congress enacted P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act(subsequently superseded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), it released a set of findings supporting the need for the Act. Congress found that there were more than eight million children with disabilities in the United States and the special educational needs of these children were not being fully met. More than half of the children with disabilities in the United States did not receive appropriate educational services that would enable them to have full equality of opportunity. One million of the children with disabilities were entirely excluded from the public school system. Many of the children participating in regular school programs, moreover, had disabilities that prevented them from having a successful educational experience because their disabilities were undetected. Because of the lack of adequate services within the public school system, families were often forced to find services outside the public school system, often at great distance from their homes and at their own expense (20 U.S.C. §1400 (b)(1)-(6)). Congress also recognized that "it is in the national interest that the Federal government assist State and local efforts to provide programs that meet the educational needs of children with disabilities in order to assure equal protection under the law" (20 U.S.C. §1400 (b)(9)).
Since 1975, the Act has been amended several times. However, the purposes of IDEA have not changed; these are: " to assure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs;  to assure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents or guardians are protected;  to assist States and localities to provide for the education of all children with disabilities; and  assess and assure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities" (20 U.S.C. §1400 (c)).
These four purposes have provided a solid foundation for the delivery of educational services to students with disabilities since 1975. Consequently, significant progress has been made in achieving the full participation of students with disabilities in their schools and communities. Opportunities now exist for these students that were not available in the past, and results for students with disabilities have improved. One way to measure progress toward full participation by students with disabilities in their schools and communities is to examine data that reveal the changes that have occurred as a result of the Act.
Results achieved by students with disabilities are important to evaluate as they empower individuals with disabilities to maximize their employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and integration into society. Positive results for students with disabilities are realized through the provision of a free appropriate education to students with disabilities in a continuum of educational placements. Moreover, these positive results and educational placement opportunities are possible as a result of the commitment of resources to implement innovative practices. This chapter examines data related to results for students with disabilities; the educational placements of students with disabilities; and the Federal government's commitment of resources to foster inclusion for students with disabilities. The three sections of the chapter include:
- What the Data Show: The Positive Results of IDEA examines the effectiveness of efforts to provide educational services to students with disabilities. Data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study of Special Education Students (NLTS) and other sources are presented to highlight the impact of Federal, State and local efforts to improve results for students with disabilities.
- Educational Placements for Students with Disabilities highlights the progress in providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment by reporting the placement patterns for students with disabilities during the 1993-94 school year.
- Statewide Systems Change for Students with Severe Disabilities highlights one of the Department's efforts to provide assistance to States and localities to educate all students and to ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities. Although reports from the field indicated that systems change projects produced very positive results, very little information that systematically assessed the efficacy of OSEP's statewide systems change grants existed. This section presents findings from a study that was designed to help OSEP assess the progress made by five States that received statewide systems change grants for students with severe disabilities.
[Chapter 2 Summary and Implications]
[What the Data Show: The Positive Results of IDEA]