Special-Education Group To Form Computer-Software Corporation
Chicago--Members of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, meeting here last week, outlined plans to form a subsidiary corporation to develop and market computer software for sale to educators and parents of handicapped children.
The move symbolizes a shift in activity for the organization, members say. After several years of intense and successful lobbying to block the Reagan Administration's attempts to alter educational programs for handicapped children, the organization that represents the nation's state directors of special education is now turning its attention to helping the states improve special-education services. And one of the major areas being explored is the use of computer technology for adminis-trative and instructional purposes.
The goals of the new corporation, which will be called Special Technologies Inc., or Special Tech, are to provide the organization with outside revenue and to ensure the availability of high-quality computer software that meets the needs of the handicapped.
James R. Galloway, the association's executive director, said the corporation now exists on paper and will be activated when "we can see a potential for a good market for our own software and a public market for our stock." He said the association would make a public offering of stock in the computer-software corporation to generate start-up capital. "We formed it with the intent that we'd get actively involved in the computer-software market," Mr. Galloway said. When the for-profit firm is activated, he said, "it will assist the organization in its overall goal to assist the states in the delivery of services."
Long-range plans call for SpecialNet, the association's computerized communications network, which now has about 1,500 subscribers nationwide, to become part of Special Tech. Citing the increasing use of computers in the classroom, Mr. Galloway said that special-education administrators are being "pushed from the outside to 'tool up."' At the same time, he said, there is a great need in the special-education field to develop standards for computer software.
A federally sponsored survey of about 538 software programs turned up only about 125 that were appropriate for special-education students. The survey found, moreover, that there is a need for "courseware products designed for specific segments of the special-education market." Over the years, Mr. Galloway said, the association has "tried to respond to the problems of the states." In recent years, it has produced a line of publications to assist the states with the implementation of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.
But as schools' emphasis shifts away from implementation of the law to program improvement, Mr. Galloway said, so should the association's work. "We now have a problem with this technology and determining the role of the states as technology moves into the classroom," he explained. "The organization's role is to help them build that capacity by being in the [computer-technology] field."