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Parents' voices heard on the hill.

Parents' voices are being heard at all levels this spring as we participate in health and education reform and as we work to make our own children's programs more effective. Working with the Education Task Force of the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CDD) in Washington, D.C., parents were able to get language into the new administration's national program for education reform, Goals 2000: Educate America Act (EAA). NPND, working with its advocacy partners, made a major contribution with the inclusion of students with disabilities in the bill's definition of "all students."

This is a clear statement that students with disabilities should participate in this country's school reform activities and are intended to benefit from this bill. As this issue goes to press, HR 1804 is about to be reported out of committee. For a copy of HR 1804, write Document Room, B-18, Ford House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 to find out how children with disabilities fit into the national goals.

This work at the national level has very clear implications for parents as they consider their role in making this act a reality. Parents will need to become familiar with the major trends in school reform. One option is to keep our separate and specialized educational services and settings, including separate classrooms and schools, to accommodate the range of individual and unique needs of students with disabilities.

A second option is inclusive or heterogeneous education, which represents the philosophy that all students, regardless of the challenges presented by their educational needs, should be educated with same-age peers in their neighborhood schools. However, this option does not require the blending of general and special education programs.

A third option, the unified system, creates an educational system that is based on the principle that each student represents a unique combination of abilities and educational needs and may require individual assistance during the school year to achieve important outcomes. There is a blending of resources and schools are organized around services, not programs.

As we work toward school reform, we must: (1) have a clear vision and mission for education that includes all students; (2) establish a system of accountability for all education programs; (3) create an organization that supports the mission of restructuring; (4) change what schools teach and how they teach it; and (5) create supports for staff development and staff renewal (Center for Policy Options in Special Education, University of Maryland).

The leadership of the National Parent Network on Disabilities wants to examine and participate in all aspects of educational reform and school restructuring while assuring that all protections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are kept intact.

Parents on the local level may be participating in reform activities at your neighborhood schools or through district-wide planning. Have you attended a Board of Education meeting lately to find out if reform efforts are underway? Do you know what efforts your State Department of Education is engaged in concerning education reform that includes students with disabilities? Make your voice heard.
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Title Annotation:about reform in special education
Author:Cuthbertson, Diana
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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