Column: Special Education

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A number of candidates have been considered for the top job in the U.S. Education Department's office of special education and rehabilitative services--a post currently held by Madeleine C. Will.

According to sources in the Congress and in the special-education community, one of the newest names on the growing list of contenders last week was that of Robert R. Davila, who is dean of precollege programs at Gallaudet University.

Others who have been interviewed for the job include: Martin Gerry, who was President Ford's civil-rights director in the former Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; Patricia Morrissey, senior legislative associate for the House Education and Labor Committee; Margaret Burley, executive director of a state parent group called the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Handicapped Children; Diane Crutcher, the executive director of of the Chicago-based National Down's Syndrome Congress; and Justin Dart Jr., who clashed with Ms. Will when he served on her staff as commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

Another candidate recently mentioned is Judith Hofmann, now an assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Assistants to Ms. Hofmann, however, last week could not confirm that she had been interviewed.

A new study is expected to fuel a century-old debate over how best to teach deaf children to communicate.

Researchers Ann Veers and Jean Moog at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, administered a battery of reading and other tests to 100 profoundly deaf 16- and 17-year-olds who had been taught speech and lip-reading since preschool. They found that the students' reading scores were an average of five grade levels above the national average for deaf students, which is the 3rd-grade level.

Thirty students scored at the 10th-grade level or higher in reading.

"We think this means that more deaf children should be taught orally," said Ms. Moog, who is also principal of the institute and an oral-communication advocate. She said only 10 percent of deaf children are educated solely through oral communication. Of the remainder, most learn by "total communication"--a combination of speech and sign language.

The study has already drawn criticism from advocates of other communication methods who point out that the students in the study sample come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds than most deaf children.

The controversial report is scheduled for publication this month in The Volta Review, a journal of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.--dv

Vol. 08, Issue 21

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