The primary mechanism for ensuring students with disabilities receive the right educational content and rigor at the right moment in their education is the individualized education program (IEP). This document, Ensuring an Equitable Opportunity: Providing a High-Quality Education for Students with Disabilities, details policy and practice considerations around individualized education programs chiefs and state education leaders can reflect upon and implement in ensuring all students, especially students with disabilities, have access to a high-quality education.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 marked an historic win for civil rights when the doors to public education were opened for all students. For the first time, children with disabilities had access to a public education and the hope of a productive and fulfilling future. Today, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), the most recent iteration of that law, aims to deliver on that promise; namely, that all students with disabilities have equitable access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), the recently reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, also aims to deliver on that promise; namely that all students, across all backgrounds and circumstances, are provided the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. However, effectively preparing students with disabilities for life after high school remains a challenge for states as evidenced by the significant educational achievement and opportunity gaps that persist between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. The increased alignment between the federal laws, bolstered further by an increased focus on improving the educational benefit for students with disabilities required by the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1, presents an opportunity for state leaders to support school and district leaders in understanding a new landscape of delivering appropriate and effective educational services and supports for students with disabilities. This CCSSO document discusses policy and practice opportunities within this new landscape to ensure each and every child, especially children with disabilities, has an excellent education.