The Expanded Core Curriculum and the Reauthorization of IDEA: Reality or Rhetoric?

Article excerpt

The expanded core curriculum (ECC) is an essential part of educating students with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision). Professionals and families alike acknowledge that students with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities, have unique educational needs that go far beyond academics to insure success in adult life. The nine areas of the ECC have provided a framework for teachers of students with visual impairments and certified orientation and mobility specialists to design instruction that is based on credible assessment and sound teaching strategies. In fact, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), stipulates that, in addition to addressing academic achievement, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) must also address the functional performance of students with visual impairments and provide specialized instruction related to students' specific disabilities.

The Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB) believes strongly in the implementation of the ECC. Many schools for students who are visually impaired have taken leadership roles in initiating and implementing the ECC curriculum. For example, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has provided numerous publications related to the ECC, and a portion of their web site is dedicated to resources supporting assessment and instruction in the ECC. California School for the Blind has aligned core content in reading, language arts, and mathematics with braille standards and activities related to the ECC. Many others, including Perkins School for the Blind, operate short courses that focus on various elements of the ECC.

Because of the way in which specialized schools are organized, instruction in the ECC along with core content can naturally occur, allowing educators to focus on disability-specific curricula in a concentrated way. Braille instruction, for example, can take place in the classroom during literacy activities, in a special braille class, in the assistive technology lab, and in the community during an orientation and mobility lesson. Schools for the blind also provide educational opportunities for students who receive the majority of their educational support in local school districts. Short courses of five days or fewer give students the opportunity to learn activities of daily living, social skills, self-determination, and knowledge about visual impairment. Also, summer programs provided by specialized schools provide educational experiences in independent living, career education, and the transition from school to work.

Although specialized schools have been proactive in initiating programs to implement the ECC, COSB strongly acknowledges that a concerted effort must be undertaken to ensure that language acknowledging the essential nature of the ECC is included when IDEA is reauthorized. Recently, in a letter written to U.S. Secretary of Education Ame Duncan, COSB and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) wrote:

   The U.S. Department of Education has
   itself recognized the need to provide this
   array of critical services in policy guidance
   issued a decade ago. …