School-University Cooperation Suggested in Special Education

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Arlington, Va--Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, in an address here last week before the state directors of special education, reaffirmed his commitment to the education of handicapped children and argued in favor of greater inservice-training opportunities for teachers of special-education students.

Citing the legal and educational complexities of the special-education field, Secretary Bell said that "we need to strengthen our teacher-education capacities on all levels for teachers who come in contact with handicapped [students]."

But, the Secretary added, before that can happen educators must solve "an obvious problem" created by "the relative remoteness and isolation" of universities and inservice-training programs, the two systems primarily responsible for the preparation of teachers.

More Inservice Training

There is a need for more inservice-training programs that are developed in cooperation with higher-education institutions, the Secretary asserted.

Since the enactment of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Mr. Bell said, more regular teachers work with handicapped students, but not all of them are adequately prepared to meet the needs of those students.

Turning to several broader themes he has touched on in a number of recent addresses, Mr. Bell said he was concerned about the overall quality of those who enter the teaching profession.

Unless education becomes more competitive as a professional field, he warned, it will not attract "the more talented ... and capable individuals into teaching."

"We need to provide more opportunities for teachers to move ahead and have more gratification as teachers," Mr. Bell said. "We need to provide opportunities in the teaching profession so that they are com-mensurate with opportunities in administration."

"We have to give more of those pinnacles of recognition to elementary and secondary teachers and especially [to] special-education teachers, who need that recognition," he said. The Secretary reiterated, as he has since coming to Washington, his belief that even in the context of great needs--such as those of handicapped students--the "control and government" of education policy should remain at the state and local level.

'Not Fail in That Trust'

Mr. Bell said the proposed regulatory amendments to P.L. 94-142--which he was forced to withdraw last year--were "an expression on my part" that state and local officials could be given increased authority ''and not fail in that trust."

"As it turns out, the community was not ready for that change," Mr. Bell told the state directors.

"We do not have an agenda to do anything but what is in the [best] interest of the handicapped," Mr. Bell said, adding that efforts "to strike a balance" between that interest and others would take "the wisdom of Solomon."

The Education Department is currently reviewing more than 20,000 comments on the proposed special-education regulations.

Comments Appraised

The Secretary said that the department will be taking "a look at where we ought to go on the regulations" after the comments have been appraised and a new assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services has been named.

The three-day meeting was sponsored by the Education Department's office of special-education programs in cooperation with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the technical-assistance office of the University of North Carolina's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center.

Vol. 02, Issue 26

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