Special Education Column

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State-mandated programs for gifted and talented students may be getting short shrift at the local level because school principals are not fully committed to them, suggests a new survey by a Texas A&M University researcher.

Thelma L. Dowies, a former doctoral student in education, surveyed 279 elementary and secondary principals in Texas. She found that 70 percent held misconceptions about the nature and purpose of the state's mandated gifted-education programs.

Overwhelmingly, according to Ms. Dowies, the principals said programs for gifted students should be appropriate for all pupils. Many also said gifted students would succeed in school without any special help and maintained such programs were "elitist."

"We need to do a better job of educating principals about gifted and talented programs," she said. "Some principals may just be doing the minimum."

A study published in the Journal of the American Optometric Association casts doubt on the effectiveness of using colored, plastic lenses and filters to combat reading problems.

The devices, called Irlen lenses after the psychologist who developed them, are used in a handful of special-education programs around the country.

But Mitchell Scheimann, a researcher at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, contends in the article in the journal's August issue that many individuals using the products may have common eye problems amenable to conventional treatment.

Dr. Scheimann studied 39 patients who complained of eyestrain, double vision, seeing words move on the page, or other problems when reading. Of that group, 95 percent were found by a certified Irlen screener to be in need of the lenses. But optometric exams determined that the same proportion had significant vision problems that could be treated by vision therapy, the author reports.

Two U.S. Education Department offices are teaming up in an effort to improve job prospects for disabled youths.

Officials from the office of vocational and adult education and the office of special education and rehabilitative services will collaborate on strategies for keeping disabled students in school, providing them with better job training, and linking them with adult-education services.

"There haven't been bridges built between these two communities," Betsy Brand, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, said in announcing the effort.

Disabled students drop out at twice the rate of their nondisabled peers, officials say. But only a fraction enter adult-education programs.--dv

Vol. 10, Issue 5

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