Goals 2000 Seen Spurring 'Inclusion' Movement
Special educators need to join the Goals 2000 education-reform movement, speakers said here at the annual meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children.
"Goals 2000 says 'all' [students], and means all,'' Thomas Hehir, the director of the U.S. Education Department's office of special-education programs, said during a session on education reform.
The Goals 2000: Educate America Act, which proponents hope will raise expectations for achievement, has provisions for all students--including those with disabilities. Mr. Hehir called the measure, which President Clinton signed into law late last month, an "opportunity to change the way schools have traditionally worked.''
"The model we have [now] is an old factory model ... that doesn't work terribly well for any kids,'' he said at another session.
The new model for education likely could be one in which it becomes the norm for students with disabilities to be included in regular classrooms, according to Mr. Hehir and other federal officials who attended the April 6-10 conference.
"What we have learned,'' said Judith E. Heumann, the assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services at the Education Department, "is that most children with disabilities can be educated'' in the regular classroom.
"We should not have to have parents going all the way to the circuit court of appeals ... to achieve integrated education for their children,'' Mr. Hehir said.
Although special-education professionals already have been involved in some aspects of education reform on the federal level, advocates here urged communities to become more involved and to monitor the process closely.
The Goals 2000 law sets up a National Education Standards and Improvement Council to develop model national standards for what students should know and be able to do, and to certify standards and assessments voluntarily submitted by states, which must set them to receive reform grants. The council will include at least one member of the disability-advocacy community, said Jim Shriner, a research associate at the National Center for Education Outcomes.
In addition, James E. Ysseldyke, the director of the center, pointed out, in order to get NESIC certification, "states must specify how they're going to accommodate kids with disabilities'' in the state standards and assessments.
But most groups that are debating education standards have not yet touched on the needs of disabled students, Mr. Shriner said. (See Education Week, June 2, 1993.)
As a result, standards-setters that are far along in the process will have to "retrofit'' their work to include disabled students if they want NESIC approval, Mr. Shriner said.
The group that last month unveiled national arts-education standards is the only one of the national-standards projects known to have included language specific to students with disabilities.
Other speakers stressed the importance of including students with disabilities in assessment plans.
Inclusion in Assessment
Too often, Mr. Ysseldyke said, states and localities exclude special-education students from testing. He cited "high stakes'' testing, such as when principals' jobs are dependent on their students' results, as an instance where administrators and teachers keep disabled students out of the assessment process. The need for accommodations such as extra time or special resources also can result in students' being excluded from testing.
"If students are not going to be able to get [degrees and certificates] because they are excluded from testing,'' Ms. Heumann told the conferees, then those students are being denied the same opportunities other students receive.
Kelly Henderson of the C.E.C. said the special-education community needs to work harder at influencing the development of assessments.
"Be aware that we are not doing the greatest job of being involved,'' Ms. Henderson said, in part, because special educators are not being asked to get involved.
The Goals 2000 Blueprint
Still, the inclusion of special-education concerns in Goals 2000 is encouraging, speakers said.
The high standards, parental involvement, and other initiatives of Goals 2000 will serve as a model for other legislative actions, Education Department officials said.
For example, as the department develops its proposal for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, said Louis C. Danielson, the acting director of the division of innovation and development, "the department intends to ... use Goals 2000 as a blueprint and align other programs with it.''
Because students with disabilities are still not receiving their full education benefits, "the promise of [the I.D.E.A.] has yet to be met,'' Mr. Hehir said. But moving toward realizing that promise cannot happen solely through legislative reforms, he said.