Special Education

NASBE Calls for End to Differentiation Between Regular and Special Education

By Millicent Lawton — October 16, 1991 3 min read

By Millicent Lawton

The association’s Study Group on Special Education also said in its report that labeling children is wrong because “a label cannot define the services that are needed or the best education setting for a child.”

Labeling children, the report said, and tailoring an educational program to that label rather than to individual needs, “may be as discriminatory and damaging as providing educational programs based on race or gender.”

The position paper represents the midway point in the 16-member panel’s two-year look at the state of special education. A final report is scheduled to be issued next October.

In presenting its interim report, the group called on state boards of education to play a “pivotal role” in the success of all aspects of reform by shaping policies and providing vision.

During its first year of study, the NASBE group developed a set of “operating assumptions” for its work. The assumptions include that:

  • The education needs of students are not defined by an assigned category of disability.
  • The education needs of students are not defined by the severity of their disability.
  • Many student needs can be met by regular teachers, with support, who have broad training in instructional strategies that meet diverse student needs.

The group also called for students with special needs to be integrated into the regular education program “to the maximum extent possible.”

“Students,” the report said, “must learn to function in the ‘real world’ if they are to be productive, well-adjusted citizens after graduation.”

However, the group cautioned against a situation in which every child is integrated and there are no choices for separate programming.

“The important issue,” the report said, “is whether the teacher is comfortable with his or her students, and whether the student is learning.”

‘Window of Opportunity’

The report also said often it is regular classroom instruction that needs to be changed--not special education. Deficiencies in academic performance can result from school deficiencies, not students’ “deficits,” the panel said.

Classroom instruction also should not be divided into two standard sots, normal and special, and teachers should not be trained and socialized to expect there are just those same two types of teachers and students. In detailing its assumptions, the group acknowledged in the report that not all experts and policymakers agree with those viewpoints.

Some would maintain, the report said, that if labeling is avoided, special programming will be sacrificed; that it is unlikely that low performers will ever lose their stigma in the educational setting; and that the knowledge does not exist to establish full-time mainstreaming on a large scale, making it unfeasible now.

But the study group wrote that it believes it is “imperative that states, local districts, and policymakers embrace the concept that all children can learn in environments that value a broad array of student talents and provide adequate support to teachers and students as they work together to create student success.”

Virginia Roach, director of NASBE’S Center on Teaching and Learning and the staff liaison to the special-education study group, said what was “unique and new” about the report was that it comes from the general education community, which has “not consciously dealt with integration” of special-education students into its offerings.

With the general education reform movement underway, however, she said there is now “a window of opportunity to take a look at education efforts across the board.”

Ms. Roach said the study group-which is circulating the report among educators, parents, and policymakers--will fold feedback into its discussions and use it to stimulate thinking as well.

Copies of the report are available for $4 each from NASBE Publications, 1012 Cameron St., Alexandria, Va. 22314.

A version of this article appeared in the October 16, 1991 edition of Education Week as NASBE Calls for End to Differentiation Between Regular and Special Education


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education The Pandemic Made It Harder to Spot Students With Disabilities. Now Schools Must Catch Up
After more than a year of disruption for all students, the pressure's on to find those in need of special education and provide services.
13 min read
Aikin listens to her eight-year-old son, Carter, as he reads in the family’s home in Katy, TX, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Carter has dyslexia and Aikin could not help but smile at the improvement in his fluency as he read out loud.
Kanisha Aikin listens to her 8-year-old son, Carter, who has dyslexia, as he reads aloud in the family’s home in Katy, Texas.
Annie Mulligan for Education Week
Special Education What Employers Can Teach Schools About Neurodiversity
The benefits of neurodiversity have gained traction in business, but college and career support for students with disabilities falls short.
8 min read
Special Education The Challenge of Teaching Students With Visual Disabilities From Afar
Teachers of students with visual disabilities struggle to provide 3-D instruction in a two-dimensional remote learning environment.
Katie Livingstone
5 min read
Neal McKenzie
Neal McKenzie, an assistive technology specialist, works with a student who has a visual impairment in Sonoma County, Calif.<br/>
Courtesy Photo
Special Education 'They Already Feel Like Bad Students.' A Special Educator Reflects on Virtual Teaching
In a year of remote teaching, a high school special ed teacher has seen some of his students struggle and some thrive.
4 min read
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, sits for a photo at Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos, Calif., on April 21, 2021.
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, says remote learning has provided new ways for some of his students to soar, and has made others want to quit.
Sarahbeth Maney for Education Week