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Group To Develop Test for P.E. Teachers for the Disabled

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To better define what it takes to teach physical education to students with disabilities, one group hopes to devise a national certification test for such teachers by 1997.

The National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities, a loose coalition of physical-education professionals that also advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities, recently published standards that outline what adapted-physical-education teachers should know and be able to do.

The standards--financed by a five-year, $445,000 grant from the U.S. Education Department--will be the basis for what is likely to be a 100-item test for adapted-P.E. teachers. The group hopes states will use the test as part of the certification or endorsement process for such teachers, said Luke E. Kelly, a professor of health and physical education at the University of Virginia and the director of the standards project.

Adapted physical education tailors that subject to the individual needs of a student with a disability. In many cases, such a student can take part in a regular class if some accommodations are made, Mr. Kelly said. In other cases, a teacher may work in a regular gym class with a group of disabled students or may hold a separate class for them.

Under a landmark 1975 federal special-education law, students with disabilities are entitled to physical education, specially designed if necessary.

But the rules left up to the states to define who was qualified to provide the services. Since passage of the law, only 14 states have adopted a specific certification or endorsement for adapted-P.E. teachers, Mr. Kelly said.

Concerns With Quality

Without such standards, teachers who have not been trained in how to tailor classes for students with a range of disabilities can claim to be adapted-P.E. teachers, Mr. Kelly said.

Concern about the quality of teachers prompted the Education Department's office of special education to pay for the standards project, according to Martha B. Bokee, who coordinates adapted-physical-education programs for the office's division of personnel preparation.

The department this year is spending $2.2 million on programs to train adapted-P.E. teachers at 20 colleges and universities in 15 states.

It is hoped that states will look at the standards and either update or create certification measures, Ms. Bokee said, but she emphasized that the department is not requiring the states to adopt them.

Without national standards, school districts do not know what they are getting when they hire an adapted-P.E. teacher, said Smokey Davis, the associate director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

Adapted-P.E. services are likely to gain more attention as an increasing number of students with disabilities are included in the regular classroom and those students gain a higher profile in schools, Mr. Davis said.

"It used to be that the kids in the wheelchair would sit on the sidelines and keep score of the softball game," Mr. Davis said. "But that's all changing."

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