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In varying ways, and to various degrees, the existing core curriculum is essential to the learning of blind and visually impaired learners. This fact has been generally accepted in the profession of educators for visually impaired learners and by parents of visually impaired students. Of equal importance is the acceptance of the expanded core curriculum as being necessary for blind and visually impaired students. Assuming this second level of acceptance has occurred, what must be done next is to determine how the expanded core curriculum will be provided for visually impaired learners.

The Expanded Core Curriculum for Blind and Visually Impaired Students will be difficult to complete in 12 years of education, especially for students who are high academic learners. Several approaches for fitting the Expanded Core Curriculum into a normal education career have been suggested. One possibility that has been used is to depend on the infused competencies contained in the Existing Core Curriculum for providing the additional skills and knowledge needed by the visually impaired learner.

While it appears as though many of the competencies reflected in the expanded core curriculum might be achievable when infused within the existing, traditional curriculum, there is compelling evidence that infusion is risky and does not provide the appropriate urgency and emphasis to the expanded core curriculum. These students learn differently, in ways that are not intuitively obvious to individuals who rely on their visual sense for 80% of all that they learn and understand. Because blind and low vision youngsters often do not bring the same visual experiences to the learning environment, it is very likely that all of their curriculum needs will not be met without planned, sequential, direct instruction by individuals who understand their learning style.

At this time, no single, simple method has been developed that assures visually impaired students of accessing both traditional and expanded core curricula within the same time frame as their sighted peers. This remains a significant, but attainable challenge.

For too many years educators behaved as though they were unaware of the unique and specialized needs of blind and visually impaired students. The outcome has become a modern tragedy, with too many products of our educational efforts living isolated, troubled lives. For too many years educators have known the content of the curricula needed by blind and visually impaired learners that would equalize education by neutralizing the effects of visual impairments on incidental learning. And for too many years educators have found reasons not to implement the expanded core curriculum.

The additional learning experiences contained in the expanded core curriculum are not easy to implement. They require time to teach, and the need for them does not diminish with age or competency. The professionally prepared teacher of visually impaired students must be responsible for assessment, instruction, and evaluation in unique and specialized curricular areas. This educator needs to teach the skills and knowledge necessary or to orchestrate the teaching through utilization of other community resources.

The competencies that result in an expanded core curriculum require that educational time be allocated to teach these skills. Programming that appropriately addresses all of the educational needs of blind and visually impaired students must assume that most students will need sizable periods of time in order to master the competencies required in the expanded core curriculum. If the profession does not demand that this time be made available, it has done a disservice to students with visual impairments, and may disable them in their efforts to successfully transition from school to adulthood.

The expanded core curriculum must become the unifying issue among educators for visually impaired students. It must first be adopted by the profession as the education needed by blind and visually impaired students. Once the profession has adopted the expanded core curriculum, it then takes on the enormous task of carrying the curriculum message to parents, administrators, and the public at large. The message must transcend fiscal issues, conflicting philosophical and political positions, and the doubts and misgivings of educators and parents. The spotlight must be on the individual child, and must begin with a thorough assessment of the child, one that covers every area of the expanded core curriculum. Using assessment results and invaluable information from parents, goals and objectives must be developed for the individual child, based on assessment. If assessment has truly covered every area of the expanded core curriculum, then there will likely be goals and objectives for each area. Someone must meet, or orchestrate the meeting of, all goals and objectives. This will be the professional teacher for visually impaired children. Decisions must be made on placement, on priorities, and on frequency and duration of instruction. Care must be taken that the competencies contained in the expanded core curriculum receive equal attention to academic competencies, as stressed in the existing curriculum.

All students with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities, have a fundamental right to an expanded core curriculum that emphasizes the students' "...opportunities to be equal and right to be different...".

The Advisory Council of the National Agenda calls all professionals and parents to action on this issue. Action includes knowledge, familiarity, acceptance, commitment, and implementation. Knowledge means that educators and parents know that the expanded core curriculum must be offered. Commitment means that educators and parents are ready and willing to make sacrifices and change beliefs in order to make it happen. Implementation means that our lives as professionals and parents will be dramatically changed. Implementation means that parents and professionals will become partners in preparing their children for a rich and fulfilling adult life. And, finally, implementation means that the blind and visually impaired students to whom we have committed our love, our talents, our hopes, and our gifts for teaching will enjoy a full, exciting, and productive life.
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