Archive for Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Braille training needed, expert says

School for Blind superintendent says Lawrence must teach own teachers

July 29, 2003

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The best way to solidify Braille instruction in Lawrence public schools is for the district to enroll some of its veteran teachers in a university program specializing in that subject, superintendent of the Kansas School for the Blind said Monday.

Shopping the open market for a Braille teacher, given a national shortage of instructors, could leave the district high and dry.

"They can do better by recruiting in-house," said Bill Daugherty, superintendent of Kansas State School for the Blind in Kansas City, Kan.

He was responding to a report that the Lawrence district was unlikely to recruit a new Braille teacher before classes start in August. The situation has prompted at least one Lawrence elementary student to seek a transfer to School for the Blind.

A shortage of Braille teachers has made it impossible to hire a certified teacher in the field, said Bruce Passman, who manages special-education programs in the Lawrence district.

Passman said he was working to persuade district teachers to enroll in the two-year graduate program in Braille instruction through University of Nebraska at the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired in Nebraska City.

The School for the Blind is in a position to help the district because it sponsors an initiative that pays tuition for any Kansas teacher willing to study Braille at University of Nebraska, Daugherty said. Students are responsible for transportation and book costs.

Daugherty said the academic program in Nebraska was being upgraded. The school also will begin offering instruction online to make it more convenient for students.

"They've really made some great strides over the past year," Daugherty said. "I think it's going to be a first-rate program."

About half the 30 teachers of Braille in Kansas schools were ushered through the Nebraska program with tuition aid from School for the Blind, he said.

He said districts that supported Braille training for their own teachers had a better shot at closing the instructional gap than districts repeatedly forced to look elsewhere to hire replacements.

"These are fantastic jobs," Daugherty said. "You get to do a lot of one-on-one with kids."

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