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New Center To Evaluate Special Education

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Washington--Federal special-education officials this month announced plans to spend up to $2.3 million to create a national center to measure the effectiveness of special education.

The proposed center was among several priorities outlined by the Education Department's office of special education and rehabilitative services as part of its "handicapped special studies" program. Descriptions of those priorities were published in the March 6 Federal Register.

Federal special-education officials plan to award $293,000 to launch the center, and up to $500,000 more over each of the next four years to get it established. The grant competition for the new center will take place next spring.

Department officials said the proposal for the center stems from a growing perception that some children with disabilities may be leaving school to lead unproductive lives.

Citing the National Council on Disability's 1989 report on the status of special education--"The Education of Students With Disabilties: Where Do We Stand?"--they contended that "the time has come to shift the focus from processes and procedures for assuring access to a public education to achieving advancements in quality and student outcomes."

Thus far, however, state and local efforts to gauge special-education outcomes have lacked comparability, according to the Federal Register notice. The national center could, it said, make such studies more comparable--and useful--by developing common indicators for measuring program quality.

In another priority, department officials said they would fund a study on the needs of handicapped students leaving school.

"Without the necessary adult services, these young people in transition may not be able to find employment or establish themselves in independent living arrangements," they said.

The purpose of the study would be to develop "student performance indicators" to project needs for adult services.--dv

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