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IDEA National Assessment Implementation Study

Contract Information

Current Status:

This study has been completed.


September 2007 – December 2011



Contract Number:



Abt Associates
Windwalker Corporation



The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) is the most recent authorization of a law passed in 1975 to promote a free appropriate public education for children with disabilities. Funded at $12.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2010, IDEA supports early intervention services for infants and toddlers, special education services for children ages 3 through 21, and early intervening services for students not in special education but in need of academic or behavioral support.

The IDEA National Assessment Implementation Study was conducted under Section 664 of IDEA 2004 to assess the implementation and effectiveness of key programs and services supported under the law. This particular part of the study was designed to provide a national picture of state agency and school district implementation of IDEA across the Part C early intervention and Part B special education programs.

  • What were the Part C early intervention program service delivery models for infants and toddlers, and how were Part C programs coordinated with Part B special education programs for preschool-age children, specifically in the support of children who may transition across programs?
  • How were state agencies and school districts implementing the IDEA provisions to prevent inappropriate identification?
  • How were early intervention agencies, state educational agencies and local educational agencies implementing measures to improve child and youth outcomes through developmental and academic standards and highly-qualified staff?
  • To what extent did state agencies and school districts engage in dispute resolution with parents and guardians, and how did the incidence of disputes change since the 2003–2004 school year?

Data collection included three surveys of state administrators: (1) state Part C program coordinators who were responsible for early intervention programs serving infants and toddlers; (2) state Part B program coordinators who oversaw programs for preschool-age children with disabilities; and (3) state Part B program coordinators who oversaw programs providing special education services to children and youth with disabilities. A fourth survey collected district-level data from a nationally-representative sample of local special education administrators. These data were analyzed together with relevant information from State and Federal websites and from pre-existing surveys of state and local educational agencies.

A report, titled IDEA National Assessment Implementation Study: Final Report, was released in July 2011.

A restricted-use file containing de-identified data is available for the purposes of replicating study findings and secondary analysis.

  • State Part C agencies supported the transition of toddlers with disabilities to Part B preschool-age special education programs, but Part C did not expand to serve children until kindergarten. At age 3, toddlers receiving Part C services transition to Part B services (if eligible), typically involved a change in lead agency and often a change in support staff, service settings, and services.
  • Most school districts (85 percent) did not use IDEA Part B funds to provide Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS). IDEA 2004 permits, and in some cases requires, school districts to use some of their Part B funds to provide CEIS, services for students not yet identified as needing special education. These services are meant to address the overrepresentation of racial/ethnic minority students in special education.
  • Most school districts implemented Response to Intervention (RtI), used RtI data when determining specific learning disability (SLD) eligibility, and supported RtI with district general funds. RtI, a range of practices for monitoring student academic and behavioral progress and providing targeted interventions, was added to IDEA in 2004 as a way to inform the determination of SLD and implement CEIS.