A radical new report by two former special education officials says the school reform movement has bypassed the handicapped and calls for an end to school programs that isolate the disabled. The 28-page article in the current issue of the Harvard Education Review argues that the system established by the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 is working against academic excellence by separating the handicapped from the non-handicapped.
Special education's flaws are an extension of society's condescending attitudes toward the disabled generally, the article said.
Those attitudes cause the handicapped ``to be separated from other students, to be exposed to a watered-down curriculum, to be excused from standards and tests routinely applied to other students,'' the article said.
It said school officials tend to ``devalue'' and ``denigrate'' the views of parents even though federal law requires that parents be involved in assessing and placing students with handicaps.
And it said that because of the system's flaws, less than 2 percent of special education students ever return full time to general education.
The article was written by Alan Gartner, executive director of New York City's 116,000-pupil division of special education from 1981-83, and Dorothy Kerzner Lipsky, the division's chief of program administration during the same period.
Some school districts are already moving toward desegregation of the handicapped. About 60 schools, for example, are using the Adaptive Learning Environments Model which breaks classrooms down into work stations in which handicapped and non-handicapped children alike can work at their own pace and get individual help.
Schools in 20 San Francisco Bay Area districts are keeping children with severe handicaps in regular school buildings and giving them the chance to join regular education students in all non-academic activities.