School Improvement in Maryland

What do parents of students with disabilities need to know?

Dr. Carol Ann Heath-Baglin, Assistant State Superintendent“Active family involvement is essential to each and every student's success. Maryland has high academic standards for all students, including those with disabilities, and parents are an essential partner in the special education process. The Division of Special Education / Early Intervention Services at the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has developed numerous resources for parents and educators as they work together to support student achievement. We at MSDE look forward to a continuing collaborative relationship.”
—Dr. Carol Ann Heath-Baglin, Assistant State Superintendent

What does the law require states to do?


What are the major principles of special education law?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. IDEA guides how states and local school systems provide special education and related services to children with disabilities and is built on the following principles:

    Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) - This means that a child with a disability is entitled to an education at no cost to the parent. The education is provided under the supervision and direction of local school systems.

    Parent/Student Participation - Parents must be provided opportunities for active participation in determining the services that appropriately address the special education and related services needs of their child. As students become 14 years of age, they are included as active participants in determining their transition needs and education. Child Find - Local school systems have the responsibility to locate, identify and evaluate all children with disabilities, aged 3 to 21, residing in the State who are in need of special education services. Evaluation? This includes the gathering of information to determine whether your child requires special education and related services. The process includes the identification of your child's strengths and needs and considerations related to progress in the general education curriculum.

    Individualized Education Program (IEP) - This is the written plan for a child with a disability that is developed and reviewed in accordance with standards outlined in IDEA. Maryland has a standardized IEP format known as the Maryland Statewide IEP used by all local school systems.

    Least Restrictive Environment - Children with disabilities are most appropriately educated with their non-disabled peers in regular classrooms, in the school they would attend if not disabled, to the maximum extent possible. Separating the child from non-disabled peers should occur when the student's needs are such that education in the general education classroom, even with supplementary aides, cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

    Statewide Assessment Participation - All children with disabilities must be included in all general state and district wide assessment programs. Children with disabilities are provided appropriate accommodations and alternate assessments as defined by their IEP.

    Procedural Safeguards - Procedural safeguards must be in place and communicated to ensure that the rights of the child with a disability and the parents are protected.

Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004 is a site devoted to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA


IDEA, in combination with the state's special education law known as the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), guide the delivery of special education in local Maryland school systems. Local school systems are responsible for implementation of these laws which include procedural safeguards for children with disabilities and their families. IDEA and COMAR guarantee that each child with a disability has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) designed to meet their unique and individual needs.

Maryland State Performance Plan for 2005-2010

State Annual Performance Report