There are numerous articles written in the field of exceptional student education. Among these is the article ‘Teachers’ Knowledge of Special Education Laws: What Do They Know?’ written by three authors namely; Evelyn A. O’Connor, Anastasia E. Yasik and Sherri L. Horner. O’Connor is a PhD holder of educational psychology and a professor at Adelphi University. Yasik is also a professor at Pace University and specializes in school psychology while Horner is an associate professor at Bowling Green State University and specializes in learning, development, and instruction. The common phenomenon among the three authors is that they are all PhD holders of educational psychology. The article is the first issue in the thirteenth volume of Insights into Learning Disabilities journal published by Learning Disabilities Worldwide (LDW) in the year 2016 (O’Connor, Yasik, & Horner, 2016). The review will seek to identify the problem/issue addressed in the article, the educational relevance of the article and acknowledge websites related to the subject matter of the article.
Problem/ Issue addressed
O’Connor et al. (2016) identify that teachers lack adequate information on the special education laws which affects their ability to have the best interests of the students, their profession and themselves. The authors assert that educators are ill-trained in understanding and implementing both IDEIA Act and Section 504. For example, their study results indicated that out of the 32 completed surveys, 85% thoughts IDEIA requires the student’s current teacher conduct observations of the students yet it does not. Moreover, in regards to Section 504, only 22% correctly indicated that children do not need a specific diagnosis to receive services.
According to the authors, teachers gain the most information about legal matters from other teachers and principals which pose the danger of passing misinformation due to lack of adequate knowledge on the matter. They identify a survey done on 1300 teachers which identified that 75% of them took no course in educational law in their undergraduate education degree. The survey also identified that only 40% of the teachers correctly answered questions related to teachers’ and students’ legal rights. Moreover, 87% of the principals included in the survey had done a course in educational law in their training but they correctly answered only 54% of items regarding teacher’s rights and liability and 65% of student’s rights (O’Connor, Yasik, & Horner, 2016).
Special education laws
The United States has two significant special education laws that should not only be understood but also implemented by school personnel in classrooms. The first law is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that was re-authorized in 2004 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). The law governs how schools provide services to children identified with at least one of the thirteen federal categories of disabilities from birth to twenty-one years. The law ensures a child’s right to free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment where they also receive an individualized education program. The second law is a federal law known as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973). The law protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. Section 504 is different from the IDEIA Act because it is applicable not only in schools but also in places of employment and health services that receive federal assistance. Disabilities such as ADHD are uncovered by the IDEIA thus parents and children advocates today use Section 504 to obtain services (O’Connor, Yasik, & Horner, 2016).
As mentioned earlier, the article identifies that a majority of teachers in the country are unaware of the laws that govern special education. The consequence is that students with special education needs may end up not receiving the appropriate services as required by the laws. There are more than 6.7 million students labeled as having a disability identifiable through the thirteen categories recognized by IDEA and today, regular classroom teachers are responsible for identifying and teaching students with special needs. Prior to 2011, special education students received their education in self-contained classrooms but now, about 57% of these students spend 80% of their day in general education classrooms (O’Connor, Yasik, & Horner, 2016). Therefore, it is important for teachers to be aware of all legislation that impact the eligibility of students in receiving services and the best service tailored to meet their needs.
The educational relevance of this article is that it seems to have all teachers and any person that works with children to have complete information from the education laws so that they may direct and tailor the best services to children with special education needs.
There are two websites that have articles related to the reviewed article:
1. AFT Website; Understanding the New Federal Education Law. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/ae/spring2016/essa
2. THE CONVERSATION Website; Will the New Education Law Allow for Teachers with Lower Qualifications? Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/will-the-new-education-law-allow-for-teachers-with-lower-qualifications-54999
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