Special Education Column

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Fearful that the economic recession and the school-reform movement may be adversely affecting some programs for gifted students, the Council for Exceptional Children is calling on its members to fight to maintain and expand such programs in their own communities.

The 52,000-member organization reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to gifted education through a resolution approved during the group's annual conference last month in Baltimore.

"Many times, people view these programs as a luxury and not essential to the children's education,'' said Joseph Ballard, a lobbyist for the council. "For many gifted and talented students, these programs are the difference between educational success and failure.''

Over the past year, advocates of gifted education have complained that legislatures and school boards in a number of states have sought reductions in gifted programs in order to balance their budgets. New reports also contend that a shift in emphasis away from traditional tracking or ability-grouping practices in some reform initiatives has also diminished support for gifted education. (See Education Week, March 18, 1992.)

Efforts to restructure schools in many states are failing to take into account disabled students, a University of Maryland researcher says.

"There are districts out there that are nationally known for being ahead in school restructuring or site-based management, and they've not taken a look at special education to say, 'How does special education fit into this?','' Margaret McLaughlin, director of the federally funded Center for Policy Options at the university, said during the C.E.C. meeting.

Since last year, the center has been examining school-reform efforts nationwide to find out how the movement is affecting special education and to present options for making such efforts more inclusive. The first report on its findings is scheduled for publication in August.

The U.S. Education Department has proposed funding a new center to help special educators use technology in teaching disabled students.

The proposal for the center was announced in the April 16 Federal Register. It would require the center to establish a network of colleges and universities, special-education associations, and advocacy groups to review the best practices in the field for using technology with disabled students and to disseminate its findings.

The department's office of special-education programs will be accepting comments on the new proposal until May 18. No funding level for the project has yet been announced.

Vol. 11, Issue 33, Page 8

Published in Print: May 6, 1992, as Special Education Column
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