The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when reauthorized in 2004 introduced the concept of Research Based Instruction. This was done in order to align the regulations with the No Child Left Behind Act and to hold Schools more accountable for the lack of progress children with disabilities were making in their classrooms.
Congress, in their findings, determined, “the implementation of this title (IDEA) has been impeded by low expectations, and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities.”
With these findings in mind congress added to IDEA that all Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) must include, “a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child”
The first problem with this addition was IDEA did not define the term “peer-reviewed research” anywhere in the regulations. This created a number of requests for clarification which was addressed in the Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 156 Page 46664:
“Peer-reviewed research” generally refers to research that is reviewed by qualified and independent reviewers to ensure that the quality of the information meets the standards of the field before the research is published. However, there is no single definition of ‘‘peer reviewed research’’ because the review process varies depending on the type of information to be reviewed. We believe it is beyond the scope of these regulations to include a specific definition of ‘‘peer-reviewed research’’ and the various processes used for peer reviews.
The second problem with this addition was the inclusion of the term “to the extent practicable” which caused some to question the meaning of this disclaimer. This also created a number of requests for clarification which was addressed in the Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 156 Page 46665:
Section 612(d)(1)(A)(i)(IV)of the Act requires special education and related services, and supplementary aids and services, to be based on peer reviewed research to the extent practicable. States, school districts, and school personnel must, therefore, select and use methods that research has shown to be effective, to the extent that methods based on peer-reviewed research are available. This does not mean that the service with the greatest body of research is the service necessarily required for a child to receive FAPE. Likewise, there is nothing in the Act to suggest that the failure of a public agency to provide services based on peer-reviewed research would automatically result in a denial of FAPE.
The final decision about the special education and related services, and supplementary aids and services that are to be provided to a child must be made by the child’s IEP Team based on the child’s individual needs.
With the above information in mind, when you attend your child’s next IEP make sure you ask the School what research based instruction methods they will be using to teach your child. If they are unwilling or unable to explain what methodology they will be using politely remind them of their obligation under IDEA. That’s what I always do!!