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In 1997, more significant amendments were passed "to clarify, strengthen and provide guidance on its implementation." According to the Commission on Human Rights,

The 1997 amendments placed emphasis on education results and improved quality of special education and included tools for enforcement. Of particular concern at the time was the integration of students with disabilities into general schools and classrooms. The revised bill also addressed school discipline, giving educators more flexibility in disciplining children with disabilities, while at the same time directing them to act in anticipation of challenging behavior rather than punishing children for misbehavior associated with their disabilities.

IDEA 2004 (P. L. 108-46) passed in December 2004, and the new regulations   were released in August 2006. The 108th Congress found that "Since the enactment and implementation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, this title has been successful in ensuring children with disabilities and the families of such children access to a free appropriate public education and in improving educational results for children with disabilities. However, the implementation of this title has been impeded by low expectations, and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities."

IDEA 2004 raises the standards of performance and requires schools to use research-based instruction and provide more intensive special education services, and requires teachers to have "the skills and knowledge necessary to improve the academic achievement and functional performance of children with disabilities, including the use of scientifically based instructional practices, to the maximum extent possible."

children in a group
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden

There is general consensus that the IDEA has made tremendous strides toward improving the education of students with disabilities. Today, more than six million students benefit from IDEA funding, and the integration of students has proven critical to students who have disabilities, as well as those who do not.

It is commonly believed that integration fosters understanding and tolerance, better preparing students of all abilities to function in the world beyond school. According to one advocacy group: IDEA ensures that children with disabilities may attend public schools alongside their peers.

In addition, post-school employment rates for individuals served under the IDEA are twice those of older adults with similar disabilities who did not have the benefit of the IDEA. Further, postsecondary school enrollments among individuals with disabilities have also increased; the percentage of first-year college students reporting disabilities has more than tripled since 1978.

Child and her craft
Photo courtesy Ann Marsden