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Educating all children: ten years later.

ABSTRACT: This article reviews the Tenth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of The Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA), covering the 1986-1987 school year. In addition to reporting the current status of services (i.e., numbers of students served, their placement, resources allocated and needed for their support), the report also discusses and cites data pertinent to (a) transition from secondary education; (b) state and federal efforts anticipating full implementation of preschool special education services under Public Law 99-457; and (c) the classification of students with learning disabilities. Some directions for research on special education at a national level are suggested.

The release of the Tenth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of The Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA) (USDE, 1988) marks a decade of U.S. Department of Education assessments of a unique educational policy. Because these reports comprise the best available national data on the special education enterprise, they are naturally of interest to administrators, researchers, and practitioners. Moreover, because they also constitute an executive self-assessment of success in implementing public policy, there is also need for third-party critique and commentary. This article is intended as such a commentary. It also is hoped that these brief comments will contribute to a wide-ranging discussion of significant special education policy issues. For the sake of continuity, the present review follows the general form of a similar review of the Sixth Annual Report (Gerber, 1984). As in the earlier review, space does not permit a comprehensive analysis or presentation of detailed recommendations. There is much of interest in the Tenth Annual Report that merits attention and discussion. Nevertheless, it is our plan to update some earlier observations, identify some newer issues, and make some recommendations about treatment of data such as those provided by the annual reports.

ANNUAL REPORT

Almost 4.5 million students (birth to age 21) now receive special education services, an increase of about 20% since 1976-1977, but accounting for significantly fewer than the 12% of students once projected by the U.S. Department of Education. Much of the increase over the past decade is associated with increases in the number of students classified by schools as having learning disabilities, now accounting for over 43% of all students receiving special education. The number of students served in this category has increased over 140% since 1977. Despite increasing efforts by states in recent years to implement and monitor more rigorous eligibility standards, the trend for identifying increasing numbers of students with learning disabilities continues. On average, states identified almost 3% more students as having learning disabilities in 1986-1987 than in the previous school year. In the same period of time, the number of students identified as having mental retardation decreased by approximately the same percentage. Over the past decade, the number of students identified as having mental retardation has decreased dramatically-by over 30%.

Table I and Figure I show the proportions of children and youth served in four, broadly defined, age-groupings: preschool (3-5), primary (6-1 1), secondary (I 2-17), and postsecondary (18-21), in four categories: learning disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, and speech impairment. Children and youth served under these classifications comprise 93% of all those identified and served under both Chapter I of the Education and Consolidation Improvement Act (ECIA) and EHA, Part B.

According to the Tenth Annual Report, special education costs approximately $13.4 billion (USDE, 1988). Ninety-one percent of this cost is borne by state and local educational agencies. Local schools pay approximately 35% of education and related service costs from general revenues. These costs not only include higher student-per-teacher costs, but also an array of related services. These services, when necessary to guarantee handicapped students access to public schooling, can include psychological, social work, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, audiological, recreational, diagnostic, physical therapy, transportation, health, and counseling services.

The average number of services for all special education students was 1.2 per student, but the number ranged from a high of 3.4 for students with both deafness and blindness to fewer than I for students with learning disabilities. However, it should be recalled that students with learning disabilities comprise over 40% (1.9 million) of all special education students.

A significant number of special education students (about 33%) are provided education in restricted settings, such as separate classrooms or buildings and public or private residential facilities; but most are served in either regular classrooms or resource programs. At least one-fourth of all special education students now receive the major part of their education in regular classroom environments.

Organization of the Tenth Annual Report

The Tenth Annual Report represents an annual effort mandated by Congress. Such reports are intended to inform Congress of progress in assuring free appropriate public education and due process protections to students with handicaps. They also detail provisions for assisting states and act as a means for assessing and assuring "effectiveness of efforts" (USDE, 1988, p. xiii). Thus, data and analyses presented in the Annual Report tend to represent more case building than hypothesis testing. The past decade, however, has witnessed significant growth in the depth and sophistication of the presentation of information in these reports.

The Tenth Annual Report is nearly double the length of the Sixth Annual Report. Both narrative reporting and tabulated data presentation are markedly increased. The 200 pages of narrative are divided into four major chapters containing nearly 50 tables and figures. State and territory data on numbers of children served, related services, placements, and personnel by handicapping condition are presented in almost 70 additional tables in appendixes. In addition, the Tenth Annual Report includes in these appendixes a variety of tabular data on early childhood special education, school exiting information, projected student needs, and state population and enrollment estimates not found in the Sixth Annual Report. Compared with the Sixth Annual Report, the organization and treatment of information in the Tenth Annual Report suggest a much more developed system for collecting and digesting both more varied and more penetrating types of special education data.

Special Education Services Provided

The first narrative chapter summarizes services delivered and includes both longitudinal and cross-state comparisons of numbers and ages of students served, number and type of related services received, range of administrative arrangements relative to least-restricted-environment goals, and personnel employed and needed in the immediate future. Over 4.1 million handicapped individuals over age 3 were served in 1986-1987, or 6.2% of the estimated state resident population of the same age (USDE, 1988, Tables BA2 and BH1. For convenience, references are made to tables as they are labeled in the Tenth Annual Report.) Of those between 6 and 17 years of age, 3.7 million students, or 8.9% (BA4,5; BH3) of resident population estimated, for each state, received special education or related services.

Secondary Special Education and Dropouts

The second chapter, stimulated by congressional amendments to EHA in 1983 and 1986, is devoted to discussion of data relevant to the "exiting behavior" of secondary students and their anticipated service needs. By its focus on secondary and postsecondary transition issues, this discussion, perhaps more so than others in the report, best represents the passage of time since EHA was first implemented. Students with handicaps who had left or were preparing to leave school in 1986-1987 were the first to have spent at least a decade of their student years in schools that were federally mandated to provide special education and related services. In many ways, therefore, this group of students might be construed as a living evaluation of special education public policy.

In 1985-1986, 274,000 special education students left the educational system for one reason or another. Of those over 16 years of age who exited school that year, only 43% graduated with diplomas. An additional 17% graduated with alternative certification. Twenty-six percent dropped out. By contrast, estimated dropout rates for the general population in the same age range is less than 16%, and less than 22% for Black, Hispanic, and low-socioeconomic-status males.

Although the attrition rate for the general population-the percent of students in a ninth-grade cohort that do not complete school with their class-is about the same as that for special education students (i.e., about 29%, according to Rumberger, 1987), 40% of these students usually return to school or obtain General Education Diploma (GED) equivalence within 4 years of leaving. There is no evidence yet, however, and little reason to believe, that the same trend obtains for handicapped students. Moreover, local and regional studies tend to indicate dropout rates for special education students that are much higher than these national data might suggest, ranging as high as 50% in more than one study (USDE, 1988, p. 48).

Research on school exiting by nonspecial education students, especially students who drop out, already has fueled active substantive and methodological debate among professionals in all areas of educational research and practice (Rumberger, 1987). The Tenth Annual Report is to be praised for attempting to develop and relate its data to this preexisting conceptual and methodological framework. These data, unlike prevalence and service data, are cast immediately in terms that invite comparative analyses with data representing the school exiting of nonhandicapped students. Similar treatment of other data would be similarly useful. For example, in light of recent claims that students with mild handicaps are overidentified, and that some students (presumably minorities) are being identified inappropriately as handicapped, it would be interesting to see some comparison of relevant counts and tallies across states. For another example, there is and clearly will be significant activity around early childhood education. Special education data that are presented in comparable forms will facilitate comparative policy analysis.

A word of caution is in order. Presentations of special and nonspecial education data for the implied purpose of comparison require analysis and interpretation. For example, data regarding school exiting by students with handicaps in the Tenth Annual Report are not straightforward. First, in many cases, regulations or law permit public school special education until beyond age 18. The age at which students leave school, therefore, must be interpreted against a standard of years needed, provided, or available; and not in terms of typical expectations for school completion at age 18. For example, in 19851986, over 213,000 students, age 16 to 21, left school; 26% of these dropped out (USDE, 1988, Table 16, p. 41). However, about 36% of students age 16 to 21 who left school, and even 25% of those considered drop outs, were over 18. Moreover, more than 60,000 special education students, age 3 to 15, left school (15% of whom "dropped out") in 1985-1986.

Second, the nature of different handicapping conditions appears to differentially influence likelihood of premature school exiting (USDE, 1988, Table 17, p. 42). For example, the Tenth Annual Report shows that about 29% of all handicapped students dropped out during the 1985-1986 school year. However, 59% of students over age 16 with speech impairments and almost 69% of those with an emotional disturbance dropped out. In contrast, only 7% of students with multiple handicaps and 9% of students with both deafness and blindness dropped out during 1985-1986.

Third, many states offer certificates of completion in lieu of regular diplomas for special education students. Indeed, according to the Tenth Annual Report, two out of every seven handicapped students who completed their educational program received a certificate of completion rather than a diploma. Though similar options often are available to students in regular education, there still are important differences in how such policies are implemented. For example, it is increasingly common for states to certify students' competencies by means of examination. Many of these states, however, provide special test-taking arrangements for students with handicaps-arrangements unavailable to nonhandicapped students. Thus, similar graduation policies may differentially influence decisions to stay in or leave school among students with handicaps and their families compared with decisions made by peers in regular education.

Early Childhood Special Education

Passage of P.L. 99-457 has accelerated special education planning and activities regarding preschool-age children with handicaps. The third chapter of the Tenth Annual Report focuses on important new policy initiatives directed toward children with handicaps under age 5. This policy has two major components. The first of these, the Preschool Grants Program (formerly the Preschool Incentive Grants Program), is designed to support states in preparing appropriate special education services for all children with handicaps, age 3 to 5, by 1991. The second component, concerning intervention services for infants and toddlers, was also mandated as part of the EHA Amendments of 1986 (i.e., Part H).

When initial incentives to extend services to preschool ages were offered in 1977, fewer than half of all states elected to participate. In 1987, all states participated, representing a 35% increase over 1977 in numbers of preschool children with handicaps receiving special education or related services. The number of children currently served under the Preschool Grant Program has exceeded 300,000 with a federal contribution of about $180 million. Seventy percent of the Preschool Grant Program funds must be distributed to Local Education Agencies. Another 25% may be set aside by states for planning and development.

The early intervention thrust of preschool special education programs was markedly enhanced by passage of Part H of the EHA Amendments of 1986, in which

Congress established policy and legislative mechanisms for supporting states' intervention efforts on behalf of children with handicaps, under age 3. This new federal policy explicitly aims to enhance early development by (a) supporting direct interventions that will ameliorate risk by reducing need for special education, related social services, and institutionalization and (b) improving the "capacity of families to meet the special needs of their infants and toddlers with handicaps (p. 92)."

Although the general thrust of both components is to extend and interpret the philosophy and major provisions of EHA for children identified as handicapped before they are of school age, the conceptual framework of the program for infants and toddlers with handicaps, in particular, brings the national special education enterprise into a new, risky, but certainly exciting terrain. Mandates to define and assess "developmental delay" in infancy, to design and implement appropriate interventions, to plan for and obtain coordination and cooperation among different professionals and agencies, and to do all this in the context of enhancing the family's capacity as primary educator are likely to stimulate the most productive national research effort on early childhood risk since the 1960s. Unlike earlier focus on amorphous risk factors associated with socioeconomic or ethnolinguistic groups, this new research thrust is likely to be more focused, benefiting from a generation of applied research on individual differences. Clearly, federal stimulation of new research efforts must be adequate to the task the Congress has set for the nation. The report states that new institutes have been funded under cooperative agreements, but a need for much more, and much more widely dispersed, grant-based support for programmatic work is indicated.

Early childhood special education policy also benefits from a decade of experience in providing individually planned, rather than generic stimulation, or readiness, programs of intervention. Part H, for example, calls for states to define "developmental delay," to institute a comprehensive child-find system and public awareness program, to conduct multidisciplinary evaluations, and to provide "individualized family service plans" (IFSPS) representing the coordinated and cooperative efforts of contributing professionals and agencies. Further, these detailed requirements must be fulfilled in the context of explicit procedures for protecting rights; resolving disagreements; assuring responsiveness in providing necessary information and service in a timely manner; and maintaining appropriate, accountability oriented data.

Such a comprehensive and detailed response to the problem of individual risk simply was not possible, conceptually or politically, in the early days of Head Start, for example, and would not be possible now without the experience of national special education policy for school-age children. Infants and toddlers, however, are not merely smaller and younger versions of elementary and secondary students. It is unclear, as yet, how the core concepts of special education as created by EHA will fare under mandates for a significantly broader network of services. The concepts of IFSPS, lead agencies, and interagency cooperative agreements, though built on EHA models, clearly reach far beyond public school boundaries of EHA. By attempting to knit together service providers who normally related both vertically (i.e., local, regional, and state agencies) and horizontally (i.e., education, health, human resources, and mental health agencies), early childhood special education is more strongly intrusive in state effort regarding preschool handicapped children than any previous legislative vehicle.

There are, therefore, significant risks. Anticipation and preparedness to monitor these risks should be reflected in the types of data analysis and summarization presented in the Tenth Annual Report. The most obvious risk is the possibility that EHA's clear educational, as opposed to a medical or psychosocial, orientation will be diluted or displaced. This might occur not so much by design as by inadvertently inducing competition among agencies whose leadership varies significantly in their concepts of risk and disability, their appreciation for and commitment to educational interventions, and their political ability to shape and control resources. Second, where a strong family-directed, educationally oriented system fails to develop, IFSPs may become little more than a consolidation of billing procedures for medical, psychological, and other health professional services. Moreover, many special education implementation problems encountered with school-age populations, including issues of appropriate identification and eligibility standards, cannot be avoided in family and preschool programming. In fact, these problems are likely to become significantly more complex. The majority of children identified at school age as handicapped are not severely or profoundly handicapped. If their handicapping conditions have a detectable and modifiable etiology, then already difficult conceptual issues-for example, who has learning disabilities and why-become more difficult as factors regarding home environment and caregiving quality are considered. Once these nonschool factors are entertained as legitimate objects of assessment, simple exclusionary rules based on assumptions about socioeconomic status or cultural difference are less and less tenable.

The past 10 years of special education experience should have led the Department of Education to forecast these and other potential difficulties. Even though the occasion of the Tenth Annual Report provided an opportunity to provide Congressional thinking with some advance organizers, the report is silent on all of these matters. It may be true that there are no pertinent quantitative data to report as yet, but a more analytical review of emerging state plans in terms of Congressional intent would have been welcomed.

THE NEXT TEN YEARS?

It would be ingenuous if this review of the Tenth Annual Report failed to mention the climate of debate that has recently swirled around special education at the national and state policy levels. Though not discussed in the report as such, a good deal of this debate was stimulated by the slow growth of some categories (e.g., Kauffman, 1980), but particularly by the unexpectedly rapid growth in numbers of children classified as having learning disabilities Algozzine & Korinek, 1985; Algozzine, Ysseldyke, & Christenson, 1983; Will, 1986a, b). It is clear from data presented in the Tenth Annual Report that the average service rate for students with learning disabilities (proportion of total enrollment) remains high and is increasing, despite a wave of reforms in state education agencies aimed at making and monitoring stricter eligibility criteria. Whereas the number of children and youth identified for special education increased (1.2%) over the previous year (1985-1986), the rate of increase for children and youth with learning disabilities was substantially higher (2.9%). By contrast, the number of those classified as mentally retarded decreased by slightly over 3%. Children and youth classified as having speech impairments, another high service category, increased by only about I %. The number of children served as emotionally disturbed increased by 2. 1 % and those identified as having multiple handicaps by over 10%; but these categories comprise two of the lowest incidence categories, together equal to only 9% and 2% of the total.

Moreover, this increase in the number of children and youth classified as having learning disabilities was a phenomenon not isolated in certain states; 37 states (74%) reported a net increase. Georgia and Mississippi led the increase with 10.9% and 9.2% more students with learning disabilities, respectively. Only 12 states reported serving decreasing numbers of individuals with learning disabilities. Five states-Hawaii, Louisiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming- reported decreases of over 23%. Given the costs associated with these trends, it is not unreasonable that local and state education agencies would make fiscal, if not pedagogical, arguments for adopting policies aimed at giving greater discretion to local authorities in matters of identification criteria, the development and implementation of individual educational plans, and implementation of provisions for the least restricted environments. However, the fundamental principles enunciated in the EHA cannot be altered to suit vagaries of school finance. Although Congress should want to examine the problem in greater depth, the Tenth Annual Report is generally silent on these matters.

Another issue of current interest, the regular education initiative, is not discussed in the present article, but many other authors have discussed the relevant issues at great length. Some of the better discussions are found in Baker and Zigmond, 1989; Bickel and Bickel, 1986; Fuchs and Fuchs, 1988; Gartner and Lipsky, 1987; Gerber, 1988; Hagerty and Abramson, 1987; Heller and Schilit, 1987; Jenkins, Pious, and Peterson, 1988; Kauffman, Gerber, and Semmel, 1988; Lilly, 1988; Martin, 1987; Reynolds and Wang, 1983; Reynolds, Wang, and Walberg, 1987; Singer, 1988; Stainback and Stainback, 1984; Teacher Education Division, CEC, 1987; and Wang and Walberg, 1988.

The Meaning of Variability Revisited

The manner in which data are presented in the annual reports invites between-state comparisons and contrasts. Congress, in requiring these reports, had explicit concern for assessing whether there would be an equitable and adequate allocation of federal resources among the states. In implementing the law, the Department of Education also has a reasonable concern to infer how well each state is implementing federal policy so that remedial action can be taken when and where necessary. In the annual reports, however, equity and adequacy of state effort can be assessed only indirectly by considering the number of children and youth served. Some inference about the meaning of these numbers is always necessary before addressing these policy concerns.

For example, in reviewing the Sixth Annual Report, Gerber (1984) called attention not only to the surprising increase in the number of children and youth served as having learning disabilities, but also to the unexplained variability in state rates of identification and service under this classification. Rather than perseverate on atheoretical arguments about which children, in some psychological sense, really have learning disabilities, Gerber argued, careful examination of interstate variability might provide evidence that practical economic and policy differences underlie any superficial differences in degree of compliance with federally mandated (identification) procedures" (Gerber, 1984, p. 216).

While there has been some recent debate about how to properly measure variability in students identified under different categories (Algozzine & Ysseldyke, 1987; Hallahan, Keller, & Ball, 1986; Keller, Ball & Hallahan, 1987), these exchanges have tended to be overly technical and unnecessarily atheoretical. For example, it may be more pertinent that variability in the service rate for students with learning disabilities (i.e., the proportion of enrollment identified), however measured, has decreased over time, or that high and low incidence variability may not be strictly comparable regardless of the specific measure used. Figure 2 presents estimations of the coefficient of variation (e.g., see Hallahan et al., 1986) for learning disability, mental retardation, and emotional disturbance classifications for the 7 years leading to the Sixth Annual Report and for the year reviewed by the Tenth Annual Report.

Two observations about the data in Figure 2 are of interest. First, coefficients of variation for the learning disability classification have declined over the years as service rate has increased; but the opposite is true for the mental retardation classification. Second, low-incidence handicapping conditions, such as emotional disturbance, despite also showing relative decline in coefficients of variation as service rates rose, tend to have much larger coefficients of variation than higher incidence conditions. However, the interpretation applied to this, or any other, measure of variability must necessarily differ.

Measures of dispersion are sensitive to the numbers of intervals into which observations are grouped. If we are interested in making inferences based on estimated interstate differences in average service rates (i.e., proportions), it is clear that the distribution of low-incidence conditions across states will produce larger differences in service rate than when high-incidence conditions are likewise distributed. That is, high variability for low-incidence handicapping conditions results mainly from representing few observations as proportions of a large base population, and then forcing these proportions into a frequency distribution with a fixed, and relatively large, number of intervals. Thus, when rare events (i.e., low-incidence handicapping conditions) are distributed randomly across 50, arbitrarily defined geographical regions (i.e., states), the resultant large coefficient of variation is largely statistical artifact. Of course, it may be true that families with children having low-incidence handicapping conditions may differentially migrate or that parents in states with, say, large, relatively poor, and dense populations may be differentially vulnerable to higher rates of otherwise low-incidence conditions. Whether the distribution across states is random is an empirical question, but it is clear that in either case coefficients of variation, or any other measure of variability, are susceptible to considerable statistical bias.

Estimated variability in higher incidence handicapping conditions, on the other hand, is less susceptible to such error because of the large number of students identified within states. Therefore, explaining such variability is actually somewhat more problemmatic. It is obvious that there are multiple and nested sources of variation within each state (e.g., characteristics of teacher, school, district, and community) that additively and perhaps interactively contribute to state numbers and service rates; but it is not obvious how to sort them out. Variability in the highly aggregated data presented in annual reports is provocative, but such variability requires more theoretical than technical analysis.

We suggest that a more productive approach would be to construct competing macrotheories of special education that addressed state variations directly. In fact, a number of explanatory schemes at the level of local and state education agencies have been attempted (e.g., Algozzine & Ysseldyke, 1987; Gelb & Mizokawa, 1986; Gerber, 1988; Gerber & Semmel, 1985; Hallahan et al., 1986; Keller et al., 1987; Nelson, 1982; Noel & Fuller, 1985; Reschley, 1988; Singer & Butler, 1987; Singer, Butler, Palfrey & Walker, 1986; Singer, Palfrey, Butler & Walker, in press; Tucker, 1980). These pretheoretical investigations have tended to follow three overlapping, but discriminably different orientations.

Neurological or Psychological Orientation.

This approach is the most common in research on learning disabilities. That is, it builds on the traditional assumption that learning disabilities are within-individual neurological or psychological phenomena. Explanations of interstate variability, therefore, necessarily focus on the technical adequacy, fidelity, and validity of prescribed identification procedures. Variability in test score profiles, for example, are interpreted as evidence that identification procedures are suspect. A macromodel following this orientation might search for relationships among population-based medical, genetic, demographic, or environmental health indicators of state differences that might explain variability in identification of students with learning disabilities.

Social Nomination or Discrimination Orientation.

This approach is in many ways the sociological antithesis of the neurological or psychological approach (e.g., see Gelb & Mizokawa, 1986; Noel & Fuller, 1985; Reschley, 1988, Tucker, 1980). According to this approach, identification of students as having learning disabilities is merely an extension of a very old process of social discrimination and role assignment, one that historically places ethnolinguistic minorities, in particular, at a disadvantage. Interstate variability is thought to be a function of differential response to variable proportions of minority-status families in various communities.

Economic or Organizational Orientation. This approach views identification variations as a product of economic pressures and structural-organizational constraints operating at the level of local or state education agencies (e.g., see Gerber, 1988; Gerber & Semmel, 1985; Nelson, 1982; Singer et al., 1986, 1987, in press). Macromodels building from this orientation would look for economic and allocational mechanisms that operate differently in school systems in different states.

Although this growing body of special education policy analysis research is promising, much more remains to be done. More theoretical development, increased use of formal modeling techniques, and new approaches to study design and data collection are needed to advance the study of special education as a national policy phenomenon, as opposed to its myriad manifestations as instructional practice. To be sure, the phenomena in question are complex. Therefore, it behooves researchers to theorize mechanisms that can be tested iteratively at all levels of the educational enterprise, from classroom events to state policy administration. We take no position on whether this effort should proceed from the top down or from the bottom up-so long as programmatic effort is exerted to confirm hypotheses in a systematic and hierarchical fashion.

The intent and form of the annual reports are not likely to lead this effort. Rather, parallel, but independent, politically disinterested research should be encouraged by the Department of Education to supplement its own mandated reporting. Happily, the issues we have raised have begun to generate new and more sophisticated research treatment (e.g., see a series of excellent studies by Singer and her colleagues). However, more work that integrates classroom and policy level concerns would be welcome. Therefore, we reiterate Gerber's previous proposal that construction of a "national, systematically designed, longitudinally collected special education data base" be constructed by a "consortium" of researchers who would annually document programs and effects from samples of states, districts, schools, and students (Gerber, 1984, p. 223).

CONCLUSION

With release of the Department of Education's Tenth Annual Report, a remarkable public policy has reached a critical crossroads in its evolution. Special education as national policy traces its most recent ancestry to the EHA, Public Law 94-142, passed in 1975, but special education as school-site practice continues to call attention to issues that have global importance for public education in the next century. Though it may not be apparent to those unfamiliar with the history of special education, efforts to include handicapped individuals in the "mainstream" of everyday life have always raised profound social questions. In 1802 Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, a reasonable candidate for founder of special education, posed what might still be the most succinct rationale for disciplined research in special education:
 It is not among outstanding and gifted
 individuals . . . that we should look for the
 benefits and disadvantages of our routine
 education but among those that this same
 education has barely shaped, among those that
 it has left far behind ordinary men; among the
 idiots, for example, or among those individuals
 whom we generally call slow-witted;
 further among those who are noticeable in our
 societies for their lack of imagination, their
 faulty judgement, their lack of purpose, or
 their highly circumscribed ideas. These gaps
 or these faults of the human mind are much
 more the result than we realize of the defective
 management of education, whose principal
 fault is that it is essentially the same for all
 children and never adapted to the innumerable
 variations in the intellectual makeup of individuals.
 (emphasis added, quoted in Lane,
 1979, p. 88)


The Tenth Annual Report represents the sum to date of our social progress over the ensuing 186 years in pursuit of the educational issues raised by Itard. Despite considerable progress, however, there is some reason to be concerned that the educational establishment and the public at large still fail to embrace Itard's major insight. That is, special education, by dint of its inevitable concern for reform of educational institutions and practices, logically forms a leading arm of progressive educational research and practice, and not a trailing body of humanitarian, though somewhat marginal, intention. The EHA has this type of dramatic scope of vision; but the annual reports, to the degree that they become yearly balance sheets, do not advance that vision.

The power of our historical experience with special education, culminating in the Tenth Annual Report, lies not in the answers special education provides, but rather in the questions it makes us ask. Ultimately, the Tenth Annual Report fails to convey what the field of special education-historically composed of a loosely articulated array of advocacy postures and unusual habilitative practices, serving a somewhat exotic clientele on the fringe of everyday school enterprise-has to do with profound educational questions. What is normal? What is teaching? What are educational environments? Are handicapping conditions within children or in the interplay between children and educational circumstances? Finally, if we can't have everything for everyone, what do we want, what will we settle for? Will political circumstances give special education another 10 years to continue asking such questions?

(Tables and other figures omitted)
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Title Annotation:since passage of the Education of the Handicapped Act
Author:Gerber, Michael M.; Levine-Donnerstein, Deborah
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Sep 1, 1989
Words:6367
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