Federal law (the Improvement of Education for People with Disabilities Act) and laws in the state of Maryland require that all students with disabilities receive a “free and appropriate” public education that helps them learn and prepares them for employment and daily life. Since 1958, UMass Global has been meeting the unique needs of adult students. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are approximately seven million students aged 3 to 21 receiving special education services in the United States. Special education students have different needs, so they depend on a teaching environment that suits them.
To ensure that all students with disabilities receive a quality education, schools in our country have evolved over the years to refine their approaches to educating these individuals. The Education for All Disabled Children Act of 1975 (EHA) guarantees free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all children with a disability in the United States. In addition to offering equal access to students with special needs, the EHA requires public schools to evaluate children with disabilities and to create individualized educational plans that closely emulate the educational experiences of students without disabilities while meeting their unique needs. The Disabled Children Protection Act (HCPA) of 1986 was created to include provisions not covered by the EHA. For example, the EHA does not directly address the legal cost reduction available to parents who prevail in lawsuits based on violations of EHA provisions.
In 2001, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act, required schools to be responsible for the academic performance of all students, whether or not they had disabilities. The Education for Persons with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is a federal law that guides special education in the United States. It provides assistive technology to people with disabilities so that they can participate more fully in education, employment and daily activities on an equal basis with others in their communities. IDEA argues that parents and teachers of children who qualify for special education should develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which helps establish education specific to the child's explicit needs. Special education programs help people develop not only their academic skills, but also the personal skills that help them become self-sufficient members of the community. One notable change has been the shift towards a more inclusive classroom structure that allows these students to learn in the general education environment together with their peers. To help you determine if you're a good fit for this type of teaching position, it's worth looking at the most sought after characteristics that employers look for in qualified special education teachers.
Familiarizing yourself with these laws can help you better understand how special education has progressed over time.