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Low Expectations for Handicapped 'Sell Them Short,' Says Bennett

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WASHINGTON--Speaking on a topic he rarely addresses--special education--Secretary of Education William J. Bennett last week said the principles that characterize good schools for nonhandicapped students also apply for those who are handicapped.

"Regardless of the particular circumstances, there are certain characteristics ... that are common to all good schools,'' the Secretary told more than 6,000 special educators here at the annual convention of the Council for Exceptional Children.

"Among them,'' he said, "are strong institutional and instructional leadership, a safe and orderly learning environment, teaching of the basics, high expectations, assessment of student progress, and accountability.''

He also called for greater collaboration between special education and regular education.

The Secretary's remarks briefly confronted an issue that has concerned special educators since the publication of the first major school-reform report five years ago: the lack of attention given to special education by reform efforts.

Those in the field have also expressed concern that the higher academic standards imposed by school reforms may create barriers for the handicapped students who are unable to meet them.

Indirectly responding to such concerns, the Secretary said: "Our schools simply cannot be governed by stereotypes ... that encourage us to ask and expect too little from our students, including handicapped students.''

"All children tend to perform according to our expectations of them,'' he said. "Let's not sell them short.''--D.V.

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