Letters to the Editor
After reading your article concerning the "regular-education initiative" ("Researchers' Critique Escalates the Debate Over 'Regular Education' for All Students," Feb. 24, 1988), I changed the agenda for a scheduled faculty meeting in order to discuss with teachers this recent movement in special education.
The reaction of the teachers was interesting.
As a group, they have fully accepted the federal mandates contained in P.L. 94-142 and welcome into the classroom children who have been classified as "learning disabled." Most view working with these children as challenging but well worth the effort.
They wondered, however, what has been done to train secondary-school teachers to deal realistically with children who have been diagnosed as neurologically impaired, perceptually disabled, emotionally disturbed, or socially maladjusted. Under the mandate for individualized education programs, special-education students from these groups can be placed into the "mainstream" of classes.
When the teachers asked about training, they meant professional training, not the typical cursory inservice program or one-shot visit by the outside specialist in learning disabilities.
When a learning-disabled student is placed into the mainstream in a New Jersey school, that child is expected to receive an academic program similar to that offered "regular" students. Typically working with up to 125 students per day, teachers must follow an established, heavily content-oriented curriculum.
Students must also pass the state's High School Proficiency Test.
The iep in "mainstreaming" cases specifies that the student is capable of succeeding without program modification. But the teachers reported that in the vast majority of cases, this simply is not true. Modification for the learning-disabled is absolutely necessary.
From the perspective of the teacher in the classroom, a gap exists between the theory of placing special-education students into the mainstream and the practical realities in public secondary education.
At this juncture, the teachers and administrators questioned the wisdom of "regular-education initiatives" as a viable means for providing high-quality instruction in the least restrictive environment for learning-disabled adolescents.
Neil T. Glazer Principal Thomas Jefferson Middle School Teaneck, N.J.
To the Editor:
The Adaptive Learning Environments Model appears from your article to provide an excellent education ("'Amazing What You Can Teach in 5 Minutes Alone With a Child'," Feb. 24, 1988).
A key issue, however, was missing from the story: What is the staff-pupil ratio in schools employing this system?
When teachers must see 35 students in a 45-minute period, finding five minutes to spend alone with more than a few children may not be possible, especially if the program is understaffed.
And what amount of time is allocated to paperwork? Are assignments given a quick look, or are they seriously analyzed? If students are permitted to overlook numerous errors and presume that they are satisfactory, what will they be learning? Isn't reteaching often necessary to achieve mastery?
No one cited in the article mentions the substantial preparation time that must be necessary to organize materials for students' independent work.
Education of the handicapped is indeed a wonderful and meaningful challenge, but it can turn into a nightmare without proper resources. Overcrowding can make the special training of teachers meaningless.
While avoiding labels and "decertifying" may be good for individual youngsters, let's not forget that much of special education was a creation of the courts in response to the lack of appropriate services.
What protection can be provided so that those currently identified for such education are not deprived as they have been in the past? Is anyone going to analyze the learning of such students, or will changes be made simply for political expedience?
Louis J. Karas Special-Education Teacher Whitehall, Pa.
Attack on Interactive Toys
Shows 'Fallacious' Logic
To the Editor:
Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Diane E. Levin seem to conclude that because some interactive toys are a "frightening development," they should all be eliminated ("The Dangers of Interactive Toys," Commentary, Feb. 3, 1988).
Beyond the fallacious reasoning of this argument, it is easy to find examples of interactive products that do not "involve young children ... in killing and being killed," are not "single purpose," and do not result in a "repetitious distortion of play."
I do not disagree with the authors' views on violence, deregulation, and the potential of toys to "affect deeply the political and social ideas" of developing children.
We must remember, however, that interactive technology, like the mass media, can carry a variety of messages. The same broadcasting system that brings children "Captain Power" also brings them "Sesame Street."
Rob Madell Vice President
Interactive Technology and School Services Children's Television Workshop New York, N.Y.
Racism Is Seen in Makeup
Of Local School Boards
To the Editor:
When I reached the end of your article "Few Minorities Found on Governing Boards" (Jan. 20, 1988), I thought that there should have been more.
For example, you didn't say why there are not many minorities on governing boards, or why the majority of school-board members are white, college-educated males between the ages of 41 and 50, with incomes between $40,000 and $49,000.
The truth is that we are a white-male-dominated society. Minorities and women are powerless.
It was irritating to read that for the sixth straight year, school-board members said that inadequate financial support for schools was their primary concern. Sure, we need to support our schools, but I think we have some even bigger issues to deal with.
The article also reported that minority board members were more frequently appointed than elected, while the vast majority of all board members--95 percent--were elected to their post. We are a racist country.
Educating our children and our society would, one hopes, bring about an understanding of minorities and the importance of their cultures and heritages. I feel that this should become a primary concern in our schools.
Kimberly Ludowese Hutchinson, Minn.