Expanded core curriculum: 12 years later.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Core curriculum (Reports)
Parenting (Psychological aspects)
Parenting (Methods)
Special education teachers (Services)
Teachers of disabled children (Services)
Visually disabled children (Education)
Authors: Lohmeier, Keri
Blankenship, Karen
Hatlen, Phil
Pub Date: 02/01/2009
Publication: Name: Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Foundation for the Blind ISSN: 0145-482X
Issue: Date: Feb, 2009 Source Volume: 103 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 195981535
Full Text: Abstract: This study investigated changes in teachers' and parents' understanding and implementation of or philosophy on the implementation of the content areas of the expanded core curriculum for students who are visually impaired. The results demonstrated some changes since the original survey results were reported in 1998 and a discrepancy between the perceptions of parents and teachers of teachers' level of knowledge of the expanded core curriculum.


As several of us continue to travel the United States promoting the teaching of the expanded core curriculum (ECC), we realize the paucity of literature that we can use in our efforts. Now, thanks to Keri and Karen, we have an up-to-date study of the current state of the art of the ECC among a small population of parents and teachers. Although one may criticize the small sample, it should not be considered such in our field.

Keri and Karen report on some significant findings among both parents and educators--findings that should motivate us to provide more professional development and parent education about the ECC. The findings also emphasize the issue of "time to teach," as well as a gap in knowledge and awareness between parents and professionals. It should be clear to the reader that this should be just the beginning of collecting data that will guide instruction in the ECC in the future.

--Phil Hatlen

The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those Who Have Multiple Disabilities (hereafter the National Agenda; Corn, Hatlen, Huebner, Ryan, & Siller, 1995) began as a facilitated discussion in 1995, suggested by Mary Nelle McClennan as part of the annual conference of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). From that conference, a small group of professionals, including Anne Corn and Phil Hatlen, identified key issues in the education of children and youths who are visually impaired--that is, those who are blind or have low vision (for an annotated chronology, see Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, TSBVI, 2006).

A structure to lead a grassroots effort (steering committee, national goal leaders, and state coordinators) was established to collect and analyze data on the eight goal areas of the National Agenda. The original cochairs were Donna Stryker and Phil Hatlen, representing a strong partnership between families and professionals. As part of the original structure, data were collected nationally on each chosen goal area and published as A Report to the Nation (Corn & Huebner, 1998). The survey for Goal 8 of the ECC asked three questions to determine the ability of teachers of students with visual impairments and certified orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists to assess and instruct students in the ECC, address barriers to instruction, and provide solutions if they were unable to provide instruction. At that time, the survey falsely assumed that teachers had accepted the need to implement the ECC. Most respondents indicated they were unable to assess and provide instruction in the ECC content areas because of large caseloads, inadequate assessment materials, and the need to address academic areas. Solutions included summer programs, partnerships with special-purpose schools (schools for students who are visually impaired), and in-service training for professionals and administrators. Another study, conducted by Wolffe et al. (2002), found that teachers continued to focus on general education and were not providing instruction in the ECC content areas.

In 2002, two additional goal areas, transition and ongoing professional staff development, were identified, and national goal leaders were identified. Two additional cochairs were identified (parent and professional) at that time. Since then, the national goal leaders have been using a results-based decision-making process designed by Friedman (1996) to identify baseline data, critical partners, and indicators of success. The national goal leaders for Goal 8, Phil Hatlen and Debbie Willis (of APH), decided to create and distribute a survey to gather current data on the value, understanding, and implementation of the ECC (the lead author of this article joined the goal leaders in 2006).


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 mandates that functional outcomes, as well as academic outcomes, be addressed in every individualized education program (IEP). This act has changed the relationship of the field of visual impairment and blindness and the ECC, since teachers are now required by the federal government to assess and provide instruction in the ECC content areas. The ECC is designed to go beyond the core components of math, reading, writing, and science to address essential areas and experiences that are unique to persons who are visually impaired (Pugh & Erin, 1999). These areas should be taught in addition to the core curriculum, because they are specific to the disability of visual impairment. However, some research has suggested that the ECC can be successfully integrated into some areas of the core curriculum (Lohmeier, 2003).

The nine areas of the ECC are those that are typically learned incidentally by sighted children through observing role models. Although children who are visually impaired have little or no opportunity to learn such skills by observation, they have the opportunity to acquire them through sequential systematic instruction by a knowledgeable person (a teacher of students with visual impairments or a certified O&M specialist). The nine areas of the ECC are compensatory or access skills, social interaction skills, recreational and leisure skills, O&M skills, independent living skills, assistive technology and technology skills, career education, sensory efficiency skills (previously known as visual efficiency, which includes tactile and auditory skills as well as visual skills), and self-determination skills (Hatlen, 1996, 2003). Box 1 presents the ECC content areas, their definitions, and examples of skills that need to be developed in these areas.



Surveys were designed by Phil Hatlen, Debbie Willis, and Karen Blankenship in 2005 to gather information from professionals and parents on their understanding of the ECC content areas, the degree to which they value the ECC, and the ways in which they or their children's teachers are implementing the ECC content areas. The cover letter included with the survey provided a brief description of the National Agenda, Goal 8 (assessment and instruction in the ECC content areas), as well as of the efforts of the goal leaders. The participants were asked to return the completed surveys to the third author. The surveys consisted of questions on the demographic characteristics of the participants and questions on the participants' understanding, value, and implementation of the ECC content areas. Responses for some questions were on a Likert-type scale (for example, no goals known, some goals known, most goals known, and all goals known) or in a yes, no, or don't know format.

The first section of the parent survey consisted of 4 questions on the respondents' demographic characteristics and prior level of exposure to the National Agenda. The first section of the professional survey consisted of 6 forced-choice questions on the respondents' demographic characteristics, prior level of exposure to the National Agenda, and employment information. The second section of the parent survey had 7 forced-choice questions and 1 comment space. The 7 questions were used to measure awareness of the ECC, perceptions of service to their children in these areas, and perceptions of the ability to effectively carry out these services of the specialists working with their children. The second section of the professional survey consisted of 14 questions that were broken up into 10 forced-choice questions, 2 open-ended questions, and 2 general comments sections; these questions were used to measure the implementation of the ECC, the frequency with which the specialized areas were addressed in the classroom, obstacles in carrying out instruction, and potential solutions. Overall trends in responses were calculated through cross-tabulations and graphic charts.


The surveys were developed and distributed at national conferences, such as the annual conferences of APH, California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped, and Texas Focus; included in the newsletter of the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments; and distributed by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. In addition, surveys were made accessible on the TSBVI web site. Notification of the survey on the web site was communicated to the participants through e-mail messages, letters, statewide National Agenda meetings, and word of mouth. The national goal leaders did not use electronic discussion groups or other large electronic lists of participants to distribute the surveys, but notification of the electronically accessible surveys was included in the newsletter of the Itinerant Personnel Division (Division 16) of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), the largest organization of teachers of students with visual impairments in the country.

A total of 90 surveys were completed and received: 40 parent surveys and 50 professional surveys. Of the 50 professional surveys that were received, the majority were from teachers of students with visual impairments (70%, n = 35), dually certified teachers and certified O&M specialists (22%, n = 11), and teachers certified in other areas (8%, n = 4); none was received from certified O&M specialists. Surveys were completed or downloaded by the participants, and hard copies of their responses were sent to the Goal 8 national goal leaders for calculation and analysis.


The results were aggregated as appropriate for surveys. Of the 90 participants, most were from 14 states: Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.


The primary exposure of parents to the National Agenda before reading the cover letter that accompanied the survey was minimal--no exposure (60%, n = 24), previous exposure (22.5%, n = 9), and not certain (5%, n = 5); two participants did not respond to this question. The parents' responses to the question about teachers' or O&M specialists' level of knowledge of the content of the ECC also varied; the most significant responses were some content known (25%, n = 10), all content known (22.50%, n = 9), and no content known (10%, n = 4). In addition, 50% of the parents (n = 20) thought that the teachers or O&M specialists were committed and dedicated to teaching the ECC content areas, and 32% (n = 13) did not know. The parents also indicated that they understood the time restraints that teachers and O&M specialists face in teaching these areas (57%, n = 23) to their children.

The parents stated that when they participate in their children's IEP meetings, it is apparent that their children's skills in areas of the ECC have not been evaluated (45%, n = 18). For ECC areas that were evaluated during the IEP meetings (40%, n = 16), the parents thought that the IEP goals developed from the evaluations addressed educational needs in the ECC (57.50%, n = 23). With regard to the appropriateness of the instruction that their children were receiving in the ECC, 37.50% (n = 15) thought that their children were not receiving appropriate instruction, 35% (n = 14) thought that their children were receiving appropriate instruction, and 27.50% (n = 11) stated that they did not know if their children were receiving appropriate instruction.


The primary exposure of teachers of students with visual impairments and certified O&M specialists to the National Agenda before they read the accompanying cover letter was high--previous exposure (60%, n = 30), no exposure (36%, n = 18), and not certain (4%, n = 2). The participants were further asked how knowledgeable they thought their fellow professionals were in the goals of the National Agenda. Although many thought that their fellow professionals in their states were not necessarily well versed in all the National Agenda's goals (only 33% thought that "some "goals were known by their counterparts), they thought that their counterparts were knowledgeable about the contents of the ECC-most content known (40.43%, n = 19), some content known (27.66%, n = 13), no content known (17.02%, n = 8), and all content known (14.89%, n = 7); 3 responses were left unanswered. The participants also noted that they are professionally committed to the critical need for assessment and instruction in the ECC skills, but factors often limit their ability to do so.

The survey also examined teachers' preparation and limitations to instruction in the ECC. The participants indicated that university teacher preparation programs in visual impairment are attempting to spend more time creating resources for and providing assistance to future teachers in the ECC, but more instruction needs to be provided for future teachers--only 25% thought that ample time was being spent. When teaching in classrooms in the field, time continues to be a constraint because multiple curricula need to be addressed. The results indicate that even within the ECC areas, some areas are more likely to be treated as priorities and taught because of the time constraints--57% of the participants stated that they did not have time to teach the ECC. Table 1 presents areas of the ECC that the two groups of professionals listed as those that they were more likely to teach than others. As can be seen, technology was the most prevalent area of instruction (22.9%), followed by social skills (12%), and O&M (10.8%). Areas that were the least likely to be taught were recreational and leisure skills (1.2%, n = 1), self-determination (1.2%, n = 1), and visual (sensory) efficiency (2.4%, n = 2).

Even with the obstacle of time constraints, the results indicate that professionals in the field of visual impairment understand the need for and are committed to providing instruction in the ECC. These professionals were given the opportunity to reflect on innovative ways that ECC skills can be taught. Some professionals recommended using the special-purpose schools (schools for students who are visually impaired) to implement the ECC fully. Table 2 presents their suggestions.


For questions that were the same for both the professionals and the parents, the responses were cross tabulated to compare the perceptions of the two groups. The results indicate that both groups believed that children are being served by teachers who are committed to instruction in the ECC. However, their perceptions of the professionals' knowledge of the content areas of the ECC differed. Most parents did not believe that the knowledge base of their children's teachers or O&M specialists in the content areas of the ECC was as comprehensive as the professionals believed it was (see Figure 1).

Additional qualitative data were collected by the second author during national presentations (2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2006d; 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; 2008a, 2008b) on effective instructional practices for the ECC. After the presentations, the participants identified what they knew, what they wanted to learn, and what they had learned from the presentations. The majority of the participants wanted to know how to integrate instruction in the ECC into the typical school day and were worried that parents, students, and administrators did not fully value and understand the importance of the ECC.


The results demonstrate a gap in the perceptions of parents and professionals of the knowledge and awareness of the ECC of professionals. This gap may represent a weakness in communication between professionals and parents. Professionals may be teaching the ECC skills, but may not provide enough feedback to parents about the purpose of their children's instruction, the children's progress in developing a skill, and the necessity for the parents to promote the generalization and reinforcement of the skill.

The professionals indicated that they struggle with techniques and time to teach the ECC areas. Table 2 presents many suggestions that the professionals provided for how the ECC areas may be taught, including summer programs, after-school instruction, special-purpose schools, and integrated or aligned IEP goals. However, the most significant response was no response at all--35% of the professionals had no suggestions for how ECC skills can be taught. This finding may indicate a significant need for more professional development opportunities and methods for providing instruction in the ECC in various environments with a variety of resources.


These surveys provide baseline data for the national goal leaders of Goal 8 to identify strategies and action steps to increase the understanding of the value and implementation of the ECC. The original survey results published in A Report to the Nation (Corn & Huebner, 1998) found that only 36% of the respondents reported that they were able to assess and instruct in the ECC content areas. There appears to have been significant progress in the 12 years of discussing and advocating for instruction in the ECC content areas. For additional information regarding the National Agenda, see TSBVI's web site and the California School for the Blind's web site .


The most significant limitations of the study were the small sample and the fact that the surveys were randomly distributed over a significant period to gather as much input as possible. In addition, the use of surveys and self-reports lacks the rigor of other research designs, but the study was trying to measure the perception of change. Future studies of parents and professionals need to assess how representative each sample is of its respective population. In addition, this study was, in effect, a pilot study for a larger survey that will be conducted using more participants.


The results of this survey indicate that the field of visual impairment has embraced the ECC and that it is time to move forward with actual strategies to improve instruction and outcomes. The field has spent years developing a common language and understanding, and that strategy seems to have worked because most parents and professionals value and understand the need for the ECC. Additional research is needed on the delivery of instruction in the ECC. A Delphi study similar to the ones that were completed in the areas of literacy instruction would benefit the field to determine the skills sets and instructional time and duration that are needed for competence.


Blankenship, K. (2006a, July). Effective teaching practices for the ECC content areas. Paper presented at the AER International Conference, Snowbird, UT.

Blankenship, K. (2006b, October). Effective instructional practices for the expanded core curriculum. Keynote speech presented at the Nebraska AER Conference, Nebraska City.

Blankenship, K. (2006c, November). Effective instructional practices for the expanded core curriculum. Keynote speech presented at the Utah AER Conference, Salt Lake City.

Blankenship, K. (2006d, November). Effective instructional practices for the expanded core curriculum. Keynote speech presented at the New York AER Conference, Albany.

Blankenship, K. (2007a, June). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the preconference day-long presentation, Texas Focus, San Antonio.

Blankenship, K. (2007b, August). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the California School for the Blind, Fremont.

Blankenship, K. (2007c, November). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the conference of the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children, Louisville.

Blankenship, K. (2008a, February). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the New Mexico AER Conference, Albuquerque.

Blankenship, K. (2008b, April). Effective instruction in the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the Michigan AER Conference, Lavonia.

Corn, A., Hatlen, P., Huebner, K., Ryan, F., & Siller, M. A. (1995). The national agenda for the education of children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. New York: AFB Press.

Corn, A. L., & Huebner, K. M. (Eds.). (1998). A report to the nation: The national agenda for the education of children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. New York: AFB Press.

Friedman, M. (1996). Turn the curve: Process as part of the results accountability. Retrieved from http://www.raguide.org/RA/ Turn the curve.htm

Hatlen, P. (1996). The core curriculum for blind and visually impaired students, including those with additional disabilities. RE:view, 28, 25-32.

Hatlen, P. (2003). Impact of literacy on the expanded core curriculum. Paper presented at the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Lohmeier, K. (2003). Aligning the state standards and the expanded core curriculum (rev.). Retrieved from http://www.ed.arizona.edu/azaer/AZ%20Standards%20Aligned.pdf

Pugh, G. S., & Erin, J. (Eds.). (1999). Blind and visually impaired students: Educational service guidelines. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind.

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (2006). National Agenda: 1993-2000 background chronology. Retrieved from http://www.tsbvi.edu/agenda/chronology.htm

Wolffe, K., Sacks, S., Corn, A., Erin, J., Huebner, K., & Lewis, S. (2002). Teachers of students with visual impairments: What are they teaching? Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 96, 293-304.

Keri Lohmeier, Ed.D., cochair, National Agenda Goal 8, vision programming specialist, Office of Education Services, 1020 Richardson Drive, Raleigh, NC 27699, and adjunct faculty, East Carolina University; e-mail: . Karen Blankenship, Ph.D., professional cochair, National Agenda; mailing address: 1026 NE 9th Street, Ankeny, IA 50021; e-mail: . Phil Hatlen, Ed.D., former superintendent of the TBSVI, national co-chair of the National Agenda Goal 8, and consultant on the ECC; mailing address: 19026 20th Avenue NW, Shoreline, WA 98177-6479; e-mail: .
Table 1
Areas of the expanded core curriculum (ECC) that are most likely to
be taught.

ECC area                            Number of    Percentage of
                                   respondents    respondents

Compensatory academic skills            7             8.4
Social interaction skills              10            12.0
Recreational and leisure skills         1             1.2
Technology                             19            22.9
Orientation and mobility skills         9            10.8
Independent living skills               6             7.2
Career education                        5             6.0
Visual (sensory) efficiency             2             2.4
Self-determination                      1             1.2

Table 2
Suggestions for ways of teaching ECC skills.

Alternative method                    Number of    Percentage
Attend a specialized school               2            3.0
Summer programs                          11           21.5
Family workshops                          2            4.6
Afterschool instruction                   5            9.2
Extended school year                      2            3.0
Instruction beyond the 12th grade         2            3.0
Smaller itinerant caseloads               3            4.6
Weekend instruction                       3            4.6
Resource room placement                   1            1.5
Integrated IEP goals                      2            3.0
Other                                     3            6.1
No answer                                18           35.0

Box 1
Areas of the expanded core curriculum.

                       Points of Interest
Expanded core area     (Hatten, 1996, 2003)         Examples

Compensatory           Skills that students     Concept
  access skills          who are visually         development,
                         impaired need            communication
                         to access                modes (calendar
                         all areas of the         systems, Braille,
                         core curriculum.         print),
                         Mastery of               organizational
                         compensatory             skills, needed
                         access skills            accommodations
                         usually means
                         that the
                         student has
                         access to
                         learning in
                         a manner
                         equal to that
                         of his or her
                         sighted peers.

Social interaction     Individuals who are      Social concepts,
  skills                 visually impaired        physical skills,
                         cannot learn             social integration
                         social interaction       parallel and group
                         skills in a casual       play, eye contact,
                         and incidental           tone of voice
                         fashion. They
                         learn them
                         through sequential
                         teaching and

Recreational and       These skills must be     Hobbies, sports,
  leisure skills         deliberately planned     games,
                         and taught               orientation,
                         to students              physical
                         who are visually         fitness
                         impaired and should
                         focus on
                         the development
                         of lifelong skills.

Assistive technology   Assistive technology     Media literacy,
  and technology         devices provide          technical
  skills                 access to the            concepts,
                         general learning         selection of
                         environment.             appropriate
                         Technology               assistive
                         enhances                 devices,
                         communication            media needs,
                         and learning and         accessibility to
                         expands the              information
                         world of
                         persons who
                         are visually
                         impaired in
                         many ways.
                         It makes
                         that is typically

O&M skills             O&M emphasizes the       Body image,
                         fundamental need         travel,
                         and basic right          spatial
                         of people who            awareness,
                         are visually             safety,
                         impaired to              directionality
                         travel as
                         independently as
                         enjoying and
                         learning to the
                         greatest extent
                         possible from
                         the environment
                         which they are

Independent living     This area, often         Hygiene, food
  skills                 referred to as           preparation or
                         daily living             retrieval, money
                         skills, consists         management, time
                         of all the tasks         monitoring,
                         and functions            dressing
                         that people
                         perform, according
                         to their abilities,
                         to live as
                         as possible.
                         As with
                         the skills of
                         social interaction,
                         students who
                          are visually
                         impaired cannot
                         learn these
                         skills without
                         direct, sequential

Career education       Career education is      Exploring
                         vital because            interests,
                       here, too,                 areas of
                         general instruction      strength,
                         assumes a basic          job awareness,
                         knowledge of the         planning,
                         world of                 preparation,
                         work that is             placement,
                         based on prior           work ethic

Sensory efficiency     Systematically           Visual, auditory,
  skills                 training students        and tactile
                         to use their             learning:
                         remaining                environmental
                         functional               cues and
                         vision and               awareness,
                         tactile and              personal
                         auditory senses          attributes,
                         better and more          sensory
                         efficiently is           attributes,
                         vital.                   use of
                                                  low vision

Self-determination     This area is             Sense of self,
  skills                 based on                 decision
                         the premise that         making,
                         students who are         problem
                         visually impaired        solving,
                         must acquire             goal setting,
                         specific knowledge       personal
                         and skills and           advocacy,
                         have many                self-control,
                         opportunities            and
                         to practice them         assertiveness
                         to become                training
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