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The Context of Special and Gifted Education

The history of universal public education in the United States is one in which marked student diversity has presented a persistent challenge. Universal K-12 education is founded on the notion that groups of children (typically 20, 30, or more) of similar chronological ages can be effectively taught together by a single teacher using a common curriculum. The greater the diversity of the students in the classroom, the greater the challenges posed by this model. The expectations and demands of the classroom may reinforce the familiar for many students yet be indecipherable for others. While some students may be hopelessly left behind, others may be frustratingly bored.

The evolution of special education programs in the public schools has been inextricably linked with the challenges presented by diverse learners in general education. For some children receiving special education, the diversity is defined by certain physical or medical conditions, such as visual or hearing impairments or a physical disability, that must be accommodated or supported for instruction to be effective. For other students, the ability to comprehend or learn required content at the same pace as others may be impaired to a level that requires both instructional and curricular modifications. For students at the other end of the learning continuum, who may learn at a pace exceeding that of typical classroom instruction, insufficient challenge in the general curriculum may lead to disengagement and underachievement. This report is concerned with the intersection of racial and



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