Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act

by Denyse Doerries, Ph.D., and Sue land, M.Ed.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004 was enacted December 3, 2004. To date, the new federal regulations are not available. The Virginia Board of Education's special education regulations will not be revised until after the federal regulations are published. However, July 1, 2005, is the date of implementation for the majority of requirements except those pertaining to "highly qualified" special education teachers, which take effect immediately.

The following is a summary of some of the significant issues addressed in this legislation. This information was taken from the Superintendent's Memo No.7 dated January 14, 2005, and a presentation by Judy Douglas, director of the Dispute Resolution and Administrative Services, Virginia Department of Education, at the Region 2 special education directors' meeting on January 27, 2005.

Issue 1 - What is meant by "highly qualified"?

To understand how the requirements of "highly qualified" impact special education teachers in the classroom, one must examine both the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation and the new IDEA. According to IDEA, all special education teachers (new and veteran teachers) are required to be licensed in special education. In addition:

  • New special education teachers teaching multiple subjects must meet the NCLB highly qualified standard at least in one core subject area (language arts, math, or science). These teachers will have 2 years from the date of employment to use the NCLB's High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE) to show competence in other core subject areas.

  • Veteran special education teachers can take advantage of HOUSSE (Supts. Memo No. 49, March 5, 2004) to demonstrate competency in other core subject areas.

Due to the complexity of this issue, additional guidance on implementing the "highly qualified" requirements will be forthcoming from the Virginia Department of Education. Please check the VDOE web site at The proposed HOUSSE for Virginia may be accessed on the following Teacher Education and Licensure web page:

Issue 2 - How will IDEA affect the IEP process?
  • Revising IEPS: After the annual IEP meeting or at the end of the school year, parents and the LEA can agree to change an IEP without holding a formal IEP meeting. Changes may be made as amendment(s) to the IEP without redrafting the entire IEP.

  • Benchmarks: There are no requirements for benchmarks or short-term objectives except for students who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards.

  • Attendance: An IEP team member is not required to attend all or part of the IEP meeting if the parents (in writing) and the LEA agree that the team member's attendance is not necessary because his or her area of the curriculum or related service is not being modified or discussed in the meeting.

Issue 3 - How are the discipline procedures changed?
  • Change in Placement: School personnel are authorized, on a case-by-case basis, to consider unique circumstances when determining whether to order a change in placement.

  • Manifestation Determination Review: There is a significant change in the wording of the manifestation provision, requiring a tangible tie between behavior and a disability. IDEA states, "Did the conduct in question have a direct and substantial relationship to the child's disability, or was it the direct result of the school division's failure to implement the IEP?

  • The manifestation review eliminates the IEP team's consideration/determination of whether the student's disability impaired the student's ability:

    • To understand the impact and consequences of the behavior subject to disciplinary action

    • To control the behavior subject to the disciplinary action

  • Stay Put: During hearings to contest disciplinary actions, the student remains in the discipline setting, not the pre-discipline placement, while waiting for the hearing officer's decision or expiration of the removal time, whichever occurs first, unless the parent and LEA agree otherwise.

For further information and updates concerning IDEA, you may go to the Council for Exceptional Children's web site at the Virginia Department of Education web site at

Date: May/June 2005