It's a Matter of Opinion At Special Educators' Meeting

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Denver--As testimony to how difficult it is to reach a consensus on procedures and responsibilities for the "full inclusion'' of students with disabilities, panel members during one session at the Council for Exceptional Children's annual meeting here seemed at times to border on the less than cordial.

At one point, B. Joseph Ballard, the assistant executive director of the C.E.C., suggested facetiously that "the federal government ought to provide secretaries for our teachers'' to handle the paperwork associated with the administration of special education.

But Thomas Hehir, the director of the federal office of special-education programs, countered with a different point of view.

"We don't require lots and lots of paperwork,'' he said.

"Bull!'' shouted an audience member.

Mr. Hehir stood firm.

"What we find is that in many states there is a layering onto the federal law,'' he said. "Many localities, in efforts to avoid due-process hearings, have layered even further,'' he said, adding more and more hoops through which teachers must jump.

In the same forum, Dick Weber, the executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, had grim tidings for the movement to include students with disabilities in regular classes. He told of "fragmentation within the superintendent ranks'' over the concept.

"Superintendents are trained in the art of control. ... They're not really trained to be collaborators,'' he said.

Because they are called on to assuage the fears of special-education stakeholders at all levels, "superintendents are worried,'' he said.

"They're trying to get consensus ... and it's not working very well,'' he said.

A teacher in the audience turned to a companion and whispered, "Finally, some honesty.''

The inclusion panel featured members of the C.E.C.'s "working forum'' on inclusive schools.

The group comprises a coalition of 10 education associations that is framing a set of "principles of good practice'' for the planning and implementation of inclusive education.

The consortium is also working on a teacher network to share information about inclusive practices, and developing publications and symposiums dealing with inclusion.

Vol. 13, Issue 30

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