Analysis of IDEA
Policy evaluation refers to assessing effects of a policy before its implementation to determine the value and worth of a policy and how well it met intended objectives. Every policy requires evaluation from the four dimensions of policy theory which are normative, constituentive, structural and technical dimensions. The four dimensional framework helps to understand a policy effectively and determine whether it is effective at all. This may result in implementation and even funding a policy that is non-effective. Normative dimension refers to the factors that force the societies to undergo change. It comprises of philosophies, standards and values. If a policy meets the researchers’ principles it can be implemented but if it does not, it should be discarded. Within this dimension there are two different views: postmodern and positivist view. Postmodernists use scientific methods such as inductive and deductive methods. Inductive refers to making assumptions from data while in deductive observation researchers can authenticate, test and perhaps reject a hypothesis (Cooper, Fusarelli, & Randall, 2004). Both viewpoints have got their great attributes and one has to be chosen when using any of these view points.
Structural dimension refers to evaluation of policies and organization educational sector based on federal and local level. Either of the two levels of government creates the policies. Before implementing the policies it is necessary to evaluate them but in some cases that does not happen and evaluation takes place much later after implementation. Evaluation is sometimes done blindly without releasing the initial objective of the policy. When objectives are understandable and well written in the policy, execution and comprehension are more probable to take place (Saunders, 2006).The policies are created by the macro system or outside of the learning facilities, but performance is created in a school. The policies need to be properly to understand their profound influence on the education system and the student themselves.
Constituentive dimension refers to various programs in evaluating and implementing policies. Normally the constituents play a major role in evaluating and implementing education policies .They conduct a prior assessment to determine whether the outcome of the policies are to their favor, when these policies are to their favor they tend to push for them, but if not, they obstruct the policies. Constituents have both professional and personal approach in assessing policies.
Technical dimension considers factors such as time, educators and resources which affect implementation. Usually in this dimension evaluation is done during implementation or years after implementation. This dimension is very appropriate in considering what will happen during the implementation. It may either be longitudinal or cross-sectional. For this approach there is a major concern as to who does the policy evaluation. In policies concerning the educational sector, it could be staff at the learning institutions or department of education (Sacks & Sacks 2009). Technical dimension involves two phases: a first phase involves short term evaluation which is followed by implementation. Later a long term assessment is done which is more thorough but at this stage, it is rather useless because the policy is considered to be defective since it might be abandoned and already forgotten at the time. The efficiency of education system lies on policies formulated by the federal or local governments which influence the curriculum, which is what the students are taught and to what extent and how they are assessed.
Re-authorization and Related Changes
IDEA has been revised and reauthorized many times since 1975 by the congress. Reauthorizations include many changes in regard to identification of children with special needs. Some of the students who are claimed disabled simply have reading problems. Other changes include areas such as IEP, family involvement, paperwork and administrative requirements, disciplinary process and prereferrals. IEP refers to a plan which consists of special education services for disabled children and important academic and non-academic goals. Changes related to IEP involved removal of short term objectives and yearly goals made to match each students learning standard and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. After Reauthorization there were the following changes regarding family involvement: IDEA allowed family to develop a three year IEP plan, it also allowed one member of the IEP plan to excuse himself from a meeting when his experience from his field was not required, but if it was, he was allowed to submit written input. IDEA also allowed use of alternative methods rather than convening face to face. IDEA also required IEP, one must include a student’s academic and non-academic achievements at age 21, and include transition goals such as training, employment and going to college.
Changes related to paperwork requirement were made after so many years of criticism. There have been developments of model IEP, IFSP and notice forms which are dissipated. Presently, various pilot programs are being carried out in around fifteen states to help cut down on paperwork (United States, 2001). Reauthorizations regarding disciplinary process first happened during the 1997 amendments of IDEA which clearly stated that a school cannot expel a student with disability for more than ten days unless the disciplinary case involve possession of weapon at school, use or selling of drugs consciously where a student can be expelled for a maximum of 45 days. 2004 amendments included another disciplinary case that can result in maximum expulsion of 45 days which is applied if a student with disability causes serious bodily harm to another person at school or school facilities.1997 amendments involved school heads proving that a student’s misbehavior was not due to their disability, while 2004 amendment requires parents to prove that their child’s misbehavior was due to his/her disability. Other current reauthorization prohibits school heads from forcing students to seek certain services, medication, or to be evaluated for them to access special needs. Other changes were in the identification of students with special needs. Before the current reauthorization they used the IQ Achievement Discrepancy model to identify students with disability. This is where a student is said to have special needs when there is a huge difference between their learning ability and actual performance. After the latest reauthorization, common method used is RTI (Response To Intervention), according to which students are said to be disabled if they do not respond to researched methods. Lastly, there have been reauthorizations on prereferrals, congress has allowed school heads to use funds on setting up pre-referral services for students who require more academic and non-academic attention, yet are not regarded as disabled and are not attaining maximum potential. Funds can also be used in cases where there is a high rate of special education enrollment.
How the Policy has Impacted Educational Institutions
Special education student requires almost twice as much a regular student requires. There are various formulas for funding special education in different states;
- Percent reimbursement: this refers to the question whether every district knows how much to expect in terms of funding and when the government will reimburse the funds. This helps the government to keep account of how much they spend annually on special education programs. This method has its negative impacts because can be costly, sometimes the government reimbursement comes late after expenses have been incurred. It is very tiresome and time-consuming because a lot of reporting is done and determining of what costs are allowed and what are not.
- Another method which is used in funding is the pupil weighting system, where method funding is based on each student. A student who requires much more funds to serve receives a larger weight than a student who requires less to serve. This approach has its cons which are easy to understand based on regular education funding. The cons associated with this method are that it may result in students being placed in the most restrictive setting in opposed to (LRE), students may be associated with categories of disability with highest funding.
- Another approach that can be used is based on a number of teachers. Here funding is based on resources required to serve special needs students. This approach is easy to comprehend and appreciate the fact that cost does not occur on the student basis. Main disadvantage is that it puts district with veteran teachers at a disadvantage as compared to new teachers.
- The other approach is referred to as fixed dollar grant per student. It involves a state count of all students who require a special education to determine how much is required for each district. Its main advantage is that it does not enact any pressure for any student to be placed in any disability category and is also easy to comprehend (Cohen, 2009). Main disadvantage is that some students require more expensive services as opposed to others.
Most of the funds come from federal or state government while the rest is sourced from local state. Most of the states have lost their confidence in the special education system since most of the districts lack systems that report on the expenditure of special funds. There are factors that have spelled out the need to create reform on special educational funding for example need for greater flexibility in placement and use. It was appropriate to remove fiscal incentives which encouraged placing the students in more restricted placements. On the usage of funds it could be stated that not exclusively are they used for special education program. There has been a rising concern over rising costs and enrollments, for example, Pennsylvania has been suffering from increased enrollments due to many referrals (Centre of Education & Employment Law, 2007).
The high cost of program administration and special needs assessment. This program is aimed at determining whether a person really requires special education or not, while the tests are quite expensive. There has been any expenditure control system and the government has been burdened with rising cost which is carried forward to the next year. The other factors include categorical funding where funding meant that special finding can only be used as such, leading to division of student education programs instead of using all funds for the benefit of all the students. The other factor is related to Fiscal policy which has raised numerous questions in itself acts as an incentive for restrictive placement (Wilhurstl & Brue, 2005). Another factor contributing to reforms is the increased identification of students with special needs. The fiscal incentives served to encourage identification of more students into the special education program, but there was not any other incentive to encourage students to go back to regular system where a student was supposed to be in the program for months remained there for years (Zirkel, 1996). There was also lack of involvement by district heads since funding was done directly they tend to forfeit their involvement.
The government has responded in various ways to the issues of special education funding. Its main objective is to control expenditures, encourage involvement of the district heads, to end incentives for placing students in special programs and to encourage accountability and proper delivery of special education services. Census based funding as opposed to fixed dollar grant per student is based on total enrollment with total disregard to total number of students enrolled in the program and an amount of costs to serve them. It does not include incentives for placing students in high cost disability categories or placements, but encourages placing all students at lower lever placements regarded of their needs. It helped to cut down on costs related to special education assessment (Bursztyn, 2009). Census based funding has negative impacts such as reduction of fiscal accountability. It would reduce traditional levels of support since funds could no longer be attributed to students with special needs. It also reduces procedural safeguards so that students are under-identified depriving them of some special services. Although strongly supported by some states and professional organizations (“Winners All,” 1992), some states have refused to embrace the Census based funding. Census based funding works so that district of the same size receive the same funding unlike the older funding methods which take into consideration that some district have higher number of special need cases and therefore require higher funding. Another approach is aligning special education with poverty levels so that district with higher levels of poverty tend to have more cases of special need students, because in areas of poverty pregnant women tend to have poor nutrition and diet, engage in alcohol and drug leading to more children with special needs (Daugherty, 2001). Thus, there has been a link between personal income and cases of disability. This approach has been encouraged for various reasons such as ensuring that a district with students with high rate of poverty cases get more funding since the more educational services are needed there (NASBE, 1992) .This method helps to merge various educational programs such as federal state 1 and state compensatory education ensuring they work as an integrated unit. This funding also has its shortcomings: it is said to encourage students to be wrongly placed in the special needs programs sometimes based even on cultural differences. This method may even subdue the unique role of each educational program, for example, the federal state1.There has not been any scientific or real proof on relationship between poverty and special need cases. There are not current data on students living in poor conditions; the most recent data is based on census which was done about ten years ago, and thus it cannot be reliable. It may help to provide more resources to poor schools but may lead to over-identification of poor students as students with disability.
Another reform is removing fiscal incentive for restrictive placements. Major objectives of the IDEA is to ensure every student has accessibility to FAPE including the students with disabilities as well as have access to that education in the Least Restricted Environment (LRE) (Best & Sidwell, 1967).The other approach is blended funding where a more unified program is encouraged, which is aimed at ensuring that the educational needs of the students are met. Initially funds meant for IDEA were not purely supposed to be used for students with special needs, but with this approach funds from federal sources can be used together for the good of the entire student body. There have been various impacts of reform, for instance, cost-containment whereby the government decides how much it needs to be spent per student or institution that helps to release some funds which can be used in other educational programs. Funding per district has enabled the federal state to offer more assistance to the needy students ensuring that every student gets access to educational services. These new reforms also improved local responsibilities and encouraged local educators to participate more in addressing the needs of the students with disability. Service delivery has also improved in terms of respondents continuing to address needs of disabled students with disregard to change in funding as well as decrease in number of student enrolling in special schools such a those with speech difficulty (Lasch, Hanlon, Hanlon, Edvantage Media, 1998). Creation of the Instructional Support Teams (ISTs) which are viewed as temporary correctional centers as opposed to permanent and costly educational placements. There are no longer any fiscal incentives so that all enrollments are done through the ISTs. This helps to reduce over-identification of students. Regardless of the government attempts to create an efficient funding system there are still various limitations to the new system such as reduced supervision, fiscal concern, and inadequate training of special educators and support staff.
In conclusion, IDEA has been put into force both in law and in practice, the right to FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) for students with disability in the least restrictive environment (LRE). IDEA is a federal statute which ensures that over six million students with disability have their education needs met ensuring that they reach their maximum potential and can compete successfully in the job market. It has two major parts: first, states parental rights, while the second part details how the federal government allocates funding to this program. Students covered under this statue are children within the age of three to twenty one years.