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Unpublished Paper
IDEA and NCLB; Is There a Fix to Make Them Compatible?
ExpressO (2009)
  • Rebekah Gleason Hope, Florida Coastal School of Law
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects the rights of parents of children with disabilities with an emphasis on each individual child’s unique needs. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) focuses on improving academic results for all children. On the surface these two statutes appear to work in opposite directions. One provides services based on the individual needs of each eligible child, while the other seeks to raise expectations and academic achievements of all students. The former is an in-put based scheme, relying on a complex set of procedures that, if performed correctly would result in a free appropriate public education that enables each child with a disability to receive meaningful educational benefit. The latter is an outcomes-based statute that requires each state to measure every student’s progress annually, and if the yearly progress is not adequate, the school or local education agency will suffer consequences. Congress and the Department of Education have made a series of attempts to align these statutes. The purpose of my article is to examine the two statutes individually and the attempts that have been made to align them. It will explain the shift in expectations for students with disabilities since the 1997 amendments to the IDEA, and more concretely since the 2004 amendments to the IDEA that followed the enactment of NCLB. It will further examine where we are now since the most attempt to align the two statutes with the adoption of the Alternative Assessment based on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA – MAAS) and what is needed to close the existing gap between the two statutes. First the article will describe the history, purpose and standards, and the mechanics of the IDEA. Next, the article will discuss the purpose and mechanics of the NCLB. Third, the article will identify and discuss the conflict between the two statutes, followed by attempts to reconcile NCLB with the IDEA. Finally, the article concludes by recognizing that Congress could have, and probably should have spoken more clearly on whether it intended for the two statutes to complement each other when it reauthorized the IDEA, but regardless, the statutes affect the same population of students and will need to work together.
  • No Child Left Behind,
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Publication Date
September 28, 2009
Citation Information
Rebekah Gleason Hope. "IDEA and NCLB; Is There a Fix to Make Them Compatible?" ExpressO (2009)
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