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Special-Education Column

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Even in states that have flexible rules for identifying gifted students, few local school administrators aggressively recruit "nontraditional'' pupils for their gifted programs, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined programs for the gifted in three states with flexible state-level admissions policies--Arkansas, Ohio, and Texas. Despite those policies, however, few low-income or minority pupils participated in most school districts' gifted programs.

Part of the problem, said James Gallagher, the director of the Gifted Education Policy Studies Program at the university, was that "local people don't know what the rules are.'' He also said administrators fear that setting up more flexible rules could invite applications from a crush of students, many of whom may also be qualified white students.

"How do you set up rules that will also not apply to the white majority?'' Mr. Gallagher said.

The role of special education in school restructuring is the focus of a new report by the Center for Policy Options at the University of Maryland.

Researchers at the federally funded center at the College Park campus spent more than a year visiting school districts and talking with educators and policymakers about the impact of grassroots restructuring efforts on disabled students.

Their resulting 79-page report is divided into two parts. The first part, intended to create awareness, identifies the major issues arising for disabled students as a result of restructuring. The second outlines the policy options available to educators facing those issues.

Information on ordering copies of the report, "Issues & Options in Restructuring Schools and Special Education Programs,'' is available from the Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston, Va. 22091-1589; (703) 620-3660.

The Council for Exceptional Children has completed international standards defining the "common core'' of knowledge and skills for beginning special educators.

The standards are the result of a three-year process involving more than 1,000 professionals in the field.

Currently, said Frederick J. Weintraub, the C.E.C.'s director of communications, states are "totally inconsistent'' on what qualifies an educator to teach disabled students. Experts say the lack of consistency has contributed to critical shortages of special educators nationwide.

The guidelines were published in the fall issue of Teaching Exceptional Children. More specific standards for specializations within the profession will be completed by 1994.--D.V.

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