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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) is a United States law that mandates equity, accountability and excellence in education for children with disabilities. There are approximately 6.7 million children and youth with disabilities in public schools across the United States. Signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 3, 2004. It became effective July 1, 2005 with the exception of elements relating to the "highly qualified teacher". It authorizes formula grants to states, as well as discretionary grants for research, technology, and training. The latest revision of IDEA became effective in October 2006.
IDEA 1997 vs. IDEA 2004
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Since IDEA began the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA)of 1975 has undergone several revisions since being signed into law. It was initially created to assure all children were receiving a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Updates are made approximately every five years or so. Changes were authorized in 2004. In 2006, additional changes were made to IDEA as final regulations were released. They required schools to use research based interventions in the process of assisting students with learning difficulties, or determining eligibility for special education. Many schools have implemented Response to Intervention (RTI) as a method of meeting the new requirements set by IDEA 2004.
Changes to the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) Process
- Content of the IEP -These encompasses annual goals, short term objectives, educational progress, special education and related services, accommodations and alternative assessments, and transitions.
- IEP meeting attendance - A member of the IEP team may be excused if the team member's service will not be discussed at the meeting. This must be approved by the school and the parents.
- IEPs by agreement
- Review and revision of IEPs
- Transition - Clarifies that transition services should begin at age 16, and should include a list of interagency responsibilities with needed resources
- Alternate means of participating in meetings.
Changes to Due Process
Changes to due process include the following: Procedural Safeguards Notice only needs to be distributed once per year, Parents have two years to exercise due process rights, changes to the due process complaint notice procedure, parents must go through a mandatory resolution session before due process,responsibility for attorney's fees and requirements for hearing officers.
Changes to Student Discipline
1. Adds new authority for school staff to determine discipline on a case by case basis 2. New standards for manifestation determinations where the burden of proof has been shifted to the parents  and must prove that the behavior was "caused by or had direct and substantial relationship to the child's disability", or was a "direct result of the LEA's failure to implement the IEP." 3. Adds a new standard for special
- IDEA Partnership (Outside Source): The IDEA Partnership reflects the collaborative work of more than 50 national organizations, technical assistance providers, and organizations and agencies at state and local level. Together with the OSEP, the Partner Organizations form a community with the potential to transform the way we work and improve outcomes for students and youth with disabilities. 
- Conference Report on HR 1350, "Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004" (Outside Source) 
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Analysis of Changes Made by P.L. 108-446, Congressional Research Service Analysis of New IDEA Law -January 5, 2005 (PDF, Outside Source): This report detail the changes made by P.L. 108-446 covering all parts of IDEA but concentrates on Part B, which authorizes grants for children with disabilities ages three to twenty-one and contains key provisions regarding the structure of special education and related services and the procedural safeguards that guarantee the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities. 
- National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) (Outside Source): NASDSE offers a 200-page side-by-side that compares current law to the amended law signed by President Bush on December 3. Individual copies are $15 each; bulk orders of 100 copies or more receive a 15% discount. To order your copy, send a check or purchase order to NASDSE, 1800 Diagonal Road., Suite 320, Alexandria, VA 22314, Attention: C. Burgman. The document is not available in electronic format. 
- Council on Exceptional Children (CEC) (Outside Source): Latest information on the reauthorization of the IDEA 2004 including summary and analysis of the new IDEA, press releases on the bill, and a link to the bill itself. 
- Highly Qualified Teachers Improving Teacher Quality, State Grants, ESEA Title II, Part A Non-Regulatory Guidance, August 3, 2005 (Outside Source): This Guidance also includes questions on highly qualified teacher flexibility policies, revisions to and expansions of answers to several questions, revisions to the deadline by which paraprofessionals must become highly qualified, and new information on highly qualified special education teachers that results from the reauthorization of the IDEA. This Guidance is under revision and will be released in the near future by the ED. 
Other Important Elements
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- Special Education Law Library: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) - Wrightslaw
- IDEA Reauthorized Statute - Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
- Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) - Home Page
- LD Online IDEA 2004
- FAPE IDEA 2004 Summary
- IDEA 2004 Summary