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Beyond separate education: quality education for all.

Beyond Separate Education: Quality Education for All

While it is clear that the nation's agenda has included education, we are not yet properly attentive to the needs of students who are not succeeding or those who are often outside of our attention. Indeed, the literature of school reform is regrettably silent about students who are labeled handicapped. As we have moved to evaluate and place in educational programs enormous numbers of students with disabilities, there has been little attention paid to the quality of educational programs of these youngsters once they have been placed. For example, when I visited schools, I was often encouraged by administrators to avoid special education classes. In such schools, while administrators were eager to show how they were engaged in effective educational programs, it was as if students with disabilities did not exist. Placing the education of youngsters with handicapping conditions on the agenda of school reform is an undertaking of consider-able importance and difficulty, since the desire to limit our responsibility to these students is enormous. Former Secretary of Education Bell, in remarking on the progress of our efforts at school improvement, has said that the reform of education in America has helped, "70% of the students, but not affected the 30% at risk."

Those who have been excluded from participation in the benefits of citizenship demand to be placed in positions of equality. They want to vote, exercise property rights, or be admitted to a place of public accommodation. Such was the long fought struggle for the education of children with handicapping conditions. It was PL 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, 1975, that granted those youngsters access to education, and because of that important grant of civil rights, American elementary and secondary schooling has been significantly altered, and improved.

The passage of PL 94-142 has meant that the forces are urging positive change for children with handicapping conditions have had to reflect upon the meaning of that victory. In fact, there are disagreements among those who want to do the very best for children. The disagreements come about as they struggle to define what it is that represents "best practice." Many have sought the extension of PL 94-142 to provide increased benefits services for children with an expansion of the definition of "handicapping condition," so that large numbers of children in need qualify for special services by virtue of their handicap. Many have embraced these services as separate education and have urged that real reform be the provision of services. For many advocates, and not only advocates in education, the measure our care and commitment as a society is the funding that we provide in order to meed the needs of those in distress.

As compelling as it is to urge that more resources be committed to public education, it has become increasingly clear that more funding is not the whole answer. The answer lies in improving the quality of education for all children, and in having youngsters with handicapping conditions participate in the benefits that come from that improvement. Indeed, the purpose of this book is to promote the cause of education of students with disabilities within the context of education reform for all children. The authors are strongly committed to the cause of children. They are not satisfied with the progress that has been made because they know that so much more can be done if we, as a society, make the effort to improve the education condition. Therefore, they advocate on behalf of all children.

In addressing strategies that can work on behalf of children, there are several important issues. Here, I will detail seven. The first of these is that our solutions must be based upon confidence in the ability of all children to be successful.

A second feature of school reform is that it must be credible for educators, students, and their parents. Far too many students today regard school as a place where hostile things happen and where they are not well treated or understood. A third feature for school reform must include the introduction parents and volunteers into the school setting. For years, the role of parents in the process of public education was minimal. The parent's responsibility was basically viewed, by the professional, as one of bringing the student to school.

Fourth, school reform should include a reconceptualization of the role of education. One of the most important of these activities involved youth employment and jobs for school-age youngsters after school and during summer vacations.

Fifth, school reform must define "higher expectation." Students are often criticized for not being willing or able to do acceptable work. The reason is not that students are unable to respond to an appropriate challenge, but rather that school personnel refuse to put that challenge forward and to see it through.

Sixth, the reform agenda must include the need to build a "community." The aspect of the School Effectiveness Program that was most intriguing to me was the interaction within the school community. While Edmonds was quite convincing about the factors that were the key to a successful school, the sense of community that was engendered by school activities had the most appeal for me. Finally, the element of caring must be a part of school reform. The school reform movement needs people who are willing to try to make a difference with their lives. This volume represents the work of school reformers who have supported the present educational initiatives and who realize that much more must be done. They do so because they have been involved with the teaching and learning of children, both in general and special education, and believe that all children are entitled to quality education.
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Title Annotation:excerpt
Author:Lipsky, Dorothy Kerzner; Gartner, Alan
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Sep 1, 1989
Words:953
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