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Illinois districts say NCLB conflicts with IDEA.

In a first of its kind, a state Board of Education and two Illinois school districts are suing the U.S. Department of Education saying the No Child Left Behind sections that apply to special education students are in direct conflict with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Under IDEA, schools must develop Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, for each special education student. The IEP sets attainable learning goals based on a particular student's disabilities.

Under NCLB, adequate yearly progress requires that students pass standardized tests without allowances for most disabilities.

The Illinois Board of Education, Ottawa Elementary School District 140, Ottawa Township High School District 141, and parents of four students in those districts filed the suit in February.

Ottawa Township High School District Superintendent Thomas Jobst says IEP trumps everything for special education students. "Our request is that those [NCLB] sections in conflict [with IDEA] be declared invalid," Jobst says.

The Illinois standardized test is named the Prairie State Achievement Exam which has two parts, including ACT, a college entrance exam. It's a catch-22, Jobst says. "It's impossible for [all of] them to follow IEP and be in a college prep program," he adds.

This is the first challenge of its kind, according to Tom Hutton, staff attorney for the National School Boards Association. "At a minimum, whether or not you agree with the legal argument the districts are making, there is a huge philosophical difference between the one-size-fits-all in No Child Left Behind ... and the very individualized education plan which is about what's best and what's most appropriate for a particular student" based on what the parents, principal and teachers on the IEP team decide.
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Title Annotation:Inside the law: analyzing, debating and explaining No Child Left Behind
Author:Pascopella, Angela
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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