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The Syracuse Curriculum Revision Manual.

R. Schnorr, A. Ford, L. Davern, S. Park-Lee, & L. Meyer. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 1989. 132 pp.

A significant evolution occurred in services for people with severe disabilities when the concept of a "functional" life skills curriculum was introduced. One of the events of this evolution was the rejection of published curricula that were based on the developmental milestones of infants and young children. Teachers have spent the last decade creating life skills curricula or developing individualized educational plans (IEPs) without the benefit of curriculum-based assessment. The Syracuse Curriculum, with its life skills orientation, provides an important resource for curriculum-based assessment for people with severe disabilities.

Most of the 404 pages of the curriculum guide are devoted to scope-and-sequence charts and explanations of their use. One of the innovations of the curriculum is the presentation of the scope-and-sequence charts in the context of regular education. For the academic curricular areas, expected skills are provided for regular education, regular education-adapted, and two levels of functional skill. Additionally, skills are sequenced for age expectations for the elementary-school years, middle- and high-school years, and for the outcome expected at age 21. For the two "functional" approaches to time management, for example, the highest level projects the use of clocks and watches to predict and prepare for events. The "functional-embedded" approach is the use of picture-symbol schedules to manage daily activities. The advantage of using regular education curricula as a backdrop for life skills academics is that it helps teachers consider options for curriculum compatibility in integrated settings.

The Syracuse Curriculum is also a curriculum-based assessment for IEP planning. Teachers can indirectly assess students' performance levels based on the amount of assistance needed to perform the skill and "critical features." Critical features include whether the student initiates the skill when it is needed, makes choices, and uses safety measures. By following the guidelines for curriculum-based assessment, the teacher can select the skills that are most functional for a specific student.

The curriculum has three main sections: (a) community living domains; (b) functional academics; and (c) embedded social, communication, and motor skills. The first section, self-management/home living, recreation/leisure, and general community functioning, offers excellent breadth for planning. By contrast, the vocational scope-and-sequence chart is disappointing in its brevity. Although the vocational chapter provides excellent guidance for transition planning and examples of vocational tasks, it falls short of providing a vocational curriculum. The functional academic skills section is superb and covers reading and writing, time management, and money-handling skills. The skill sequences offered for time management and money are especially notable for their focus on helping students gain the most independence with the least academic skill possible. Teachers of students with mild, as well as moderate or severe disabilities, will find these charts useful. The last section of the curriculum focuses on "embedded" social, communication, and motor skills. The breadth of skills offered for each of these areas is excellent and reflects current thinking about the importance of functional language and integrated therapy.

The final section, on implementation strategies, provides only basic overviews of developing IEPs, scheduling, managing classroom operations, and planning and implementing activity-based lessons. The authors' goal of integrating curriculum-based assessment and instructional planning is commendable, but it may have been more beneficial to refer readers to other resources on these topics.

A companion text is offered on developing a community-referenced curriculum. This 132-page companion text offers a step-by-step guide for a committee to develop a curriculum for a local school district or other agency. Some of the features of this process include a checklist for evaluating existing curricula and interpersonal skills for effective task force meetings. Administrators in localities that require locally written curriculum guides will find this resource especially useful. When used with the curriculum guide, the Revision Manual makes the development of a life skills curriculum feasible for a group of teachers, parents, therapists, and other concerned people. These resources are both innovative and useful and will be a welcome addition to most practitioners' libraries. [Reviewed by DIANE M. BROWDER, (CEC Chapter #905) Professor, Special Education Program, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.]
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Browder, Diane M.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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