Published Online: October 8, 1997

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Special Education

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A recent study shows that general education teachers are often passing responsibility for moderately and severely disabled students to untrained instructional aides.

The general education teachers usually have not been trained to handle the students with disabilities who are mainstreamed into their classrooms, according to researchers who observed 16 classrooms in 11 public schools during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 school years.

The study appeared last month in Exceptional Children, a special education research journal published by the Council for Exceptional Children, an advocacy group based in Reston, Va.

The researchers found that the aides, many of whom had only a high school education, were mainly responsible for curriculum and instructional decisions for students with disabilities.

This improper use of aides, the authors argue, also hinders the social development of disabled students by further segregating them from other students and causing over-reliance on the adult aides. They said recent estimates put the number of instructional assistants in public schools at more than 500,000.

"For many students with disabilities, instructional aides provide an invaluable service," Nancy Safer, the CEC's executive director, said in a statement

However, she said, "general and special education teachers must continue to share responsibility for the educational planning, program evaluation, and assessment of students with disabilities."

The U.S. Department of Education has announced plans to hold seven meetings in cities across the nation to gather public comments on its upcoming rules clarifying portions of the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The proposed rules are expected to be published this month in the Federal Register. Meetings will be held Thursday, Oct. 23, in Boston; Monday, Oct. 27, in Atlanta; Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Dallas; Tuesday, Nov. 4, in Washington; Tuesday, Nov. 18, in Denver; Friday, Nov. 20, in San Francisco; and Monday, Nov. 24, in Chicago.

For more information about places and times, consult the Sept. 17 Federal Register, or call Laura Black Price at (202) 205-8969.

Written comments may be sent to Thomas Irvin, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, Room 4607, Mary E. Switzer Building, 330 C St. S.W., Washington, DC 20202; fax (202) 260-0416.

--JOETTA L. SACK jsack@epe.org

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