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City's Special-Education Programs Criticized

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The Providence (R.I.) Advisory Committee to Special Education has told school officials that its study of the city's special-education programs uncovered numerous problems, including an inefficient record-keeping system and a shortage of adequately trained substitute teachers for the handicapped.

Gail Peet, chairman of the committee, said the findings are based on a six-month study of two special-education schools and one program for handicapped students in a regular high school. The committee relied primarily on in-depth interviews with school employees, she said.

Ms. Peet said the committee, which is mandated by the state and composed of parents of special-education students and educators, found that many students who needed special-education courses were not identified until they reached3high-school age.

Ms. Peet also said that while teachers may identify students as needing special education, their parents often fear such a classification will label their child and move to other areas of the city or transfer their child out of the school.

The records of the referrals in the original school often do not follow the students to the new schools, Ms. Peet noted, adding that since the report, the Providence School Department has changed its referral system.

"There needed to be a more organized and formal way to keep records," Ms. Peet said. "It was being done in a very fragmented way."

She also said the city lacks trained special-education staff; currently, there is no occupational therapist for the Providence school district, she pointed out, because the city lacks a training program for such therapists.--at

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