Least restrictive environment:
Educate a student with a disability, to the maximum extent appropriate for the student, with students who do not have disabilities. in IDEA 2004, this was expressed as follows – To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of  supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

Procedural due process:
Procedures that schools and parents have at their disposal to hold each other accountable. The 1997 and 2004 amendments make mediation available as a means for more easily resolving parent-school differences.

Parent participation:
The 1997 and 2004 amendments enhance parent participation in eligibility and placement decisions. In IDEA 2004, schools must obtain informed parental consent before providing special education and related services. If parents refuse, the school district may not use procedures such as mediation and due process in order to provide services.

Outcomes and Standards:
The 1997 amendments required states to include students with disabilities in state and district-wide testing programs (with appropriate accommodations when necessary); and establish performance goals and indicators for students with disabilities. The 2004 amendments place an increased emphasis on academic achievement and functional performance. The 2004 amendments are coordinated with the No Child Left Behind Act.

The 1997 IDEA called for major re-orientations in programs. Gartner, for instance, compared programs in the New York City Public School before and after the 1997 Amendments.