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educators, researchers, parents, advocates, students, and community representatives. The disproportionate representation of racial/ethnic minority students in special education programs and classes points to the need to: make available strong academic programs that foster success for all students in regular and special education;

implement effective and appropriate special education policies and procedures for referral, assessment, eligibility, classification, placement, and re-evaluation;

increase the level of home/school/community involvement in the educational process; and use diverse community resources to enhance and implement educational programs. (U.S. Department of Education, 1997, p. I-47)

Debate Over the Continuum of Placements

In the mid-1980s, the Assistant Secretary of Education, Madeleine C. Will, proposed the regular education initiative (REI). The mother of a child with Down syndrome, Will (1986) called for general educators to take more ownership for the education of students who were one or more of the following: economically disadvantaged, bilingual, or disabled. The REI launched a movement toward inclusion of students with disabilities, including those with learning disabilities, that continues to this day. At the same time, it triggered a debate about placement options that also continues to this day.

Views on placement options have ranged from full inclusion15 to a preservation of the continuum of placements. The following two excerpts illustrate the two different views. The first attacks the concept of the least restrictive environment (LRE):

Three generations of children subject to LRE are enough. Just as some institution managers and their organizations—both overt and covert—seek refuge in the continuum and LRE, regional, intermediate unit, and special school administrators and their organizations will continue to defend the traditional and professionally pliable notion of LRE. The continuum is real and represents the status quo. However, the morass created by it can be avoided in the design and implementation of reformed systems focusing all placement questions on the local school and routinely insisting on the home school as an absolute and universal requirement. In terms of placement, the home-school focus renders LRE irrelevant and the continuum moot. (Laski, 1991, p. 413)

The second responds to full inclusion advocates’ frequent use of battle metaphors to defend their position:

For many…[defenders of a continuum of placements] regular education remains a foreign and hostile territory, neglecting many children with disabilities. PL 94-142, with its declaration of a free and appropriate education and its cascade of services and the LRE principle, represented in 1975 the capturing of the beachhead for children with disabilities. It is time to gather our energies and courage; validate comprehensive integration strategies; pressure mainstream administrators and teachers to make greater accommodations; move inland! But as we mount this new offensive, we, like any general worthy of his rank, must make certain that the beachhead remains secure. It’s the beachhead, after all, that provides supplies and, in a worst-case scenario, guarantees a safe retreat. The cascade of services is a source of strength and safety net for the children we serve. Let’s not lose it. (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1991, pp. 253–254)

In keeping with the REI philosophy, this time period also spawned a concern for students with learning disabilities’ access to the general education curriculum, their inclusion in high stakes testing, the use of pre- referral strategies, and the use of cooperative teaching practices. However, not all learning disabilities professionals have been completely sold on the value of these concerns and practices. In particular, some have voiced objections that too much focus on inclusive practices has resulted in students with learning disabilities not receiving enough intensive, specialized instruction:

The reason why children with learning disabilities are not getting enough of the intensive, structured instruction is that many schools, for all intents and purposes, are offering inclusion in

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