Setting D/HH Standard for ‘Appropriate’ Education
At a recent parent meeting one mom insisted “there should be a minimum standard of services that ALL deaf and hard of hearing kids get, so that those of us who aren’t sure what a good quality program looks like won’t have to start from scratch.” Excellent point. Here are some efforts that have been made towards that end.
Broad Guidance from Federal Mandate
The IDEA (Individual Disabilities Education Act) requires that a student who is eligible for special education services receives a ‘free and appropriate public education’, also known as FAPE. Each student’s services are determined through the IEP (Individualized Education Program) process with a team that includes the input and participation of the student’s parents. It is the essence of the IDEA that supports and services for any student be individualized, based on their needs as deemed “appropriate” by the IEP team.
The process of determining what we mean by “appropriate” relative to students who are deaf or hard of hearing is often highly subjective. Where’s the model to work from? Can we as a group of parents….or a coalition of deaf education experts….or anybody, anywhere come up with a basic definition of what a good quality deaf education should look like?
Focused Directives at the State Level
In general, programming for students who are deaf and hard of hearing should encompass some common themes, quality standards and best practices that have been articulated over the years through the writing of documents, books, guidelines, and even a National Agenda. More often than not, these resources never filter down to a parent’s working knowledge of deaf education, and thus are not actively advocated for at the individual level.
In Colorado, for example, a coalition of stakeholders created “Colorado Quality Standards” designed to identify, assess, plan, and provide appropriate educational services to all children who are deaf or hard of hearing in Colorado. It is also intended to assist in monitoring programs for these students. There are 36 standards laid out in the document that include the ‘standards’ for assessment, continuum of placement options, proficiency of staff and many other areas. The following is an example of one of the quality standards in this document.
Standard 19: Staff Qualifications
Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and youth, birth through age twenty-one, including those with multiple disabilities and blindness, are instructed by early intervention providers and teachers who are specifically trained and/or licensed to teach these individuals
The early intervention provider or teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing should demonstrate competency in all of the state-identified knowledge and skill areas to provide instruction and services, birth to 21, that meet the developmental, linguistic, communication, academic, social-emotional and transition needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and youth and their families. Each early intervention provider must have the appropriate credential and each teacher must be licensed by the Colorado Department of Education in deaf education or other appropriate endorsement area.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing students for whom the IFSP/IEP team has determined that a generic early intervention program or the general education classroom is the most appropriate placement should receive sufficient consultative support, direct instruction, or both, from an early intervention provider or itinerant teacher of deaf and hard of hearing.
Early Education Provider
The development of positive family-child relationships during a child’s early years is critical to the child’s later cognitive, linguistic, and social-emotional growth. The child’s full access to communication is integral to the development of a positive family-child relationship. Therefore, it is critical that teachers in early education deaf and hard-of-hearing programs focus their service delivery on the family as well as on the child. These teachers must be licensed teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, or early childhood providers and must also have the competencies related to the provision of services to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families.
Typical duties may include but are not limited to:
Center-Based Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The center-based program teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing is primarily responsible for the specialized direct instruction of assigned students. In addition to providing instruction, the center based program teacher should assume responsibility for the basic coordination of the students’ programs. This teacher also assists the general education teacher, the principal, and the parents of the students in the program. Furthermore, the center-based program teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing must respect and be proficient in the language mode(s) of the students s/he is responsible for.
Typical duties may include but not be limited to:
Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The itinerant teacher must ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing students, like all students, have programs in which they have direct and appropriate access to all components of the education program, including but not limited to recess, lunch, and extracurricular social and athletic activities. Itinerant teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing may provide direct instruction and/or consultative services to deaf and hard-of-hearing students enrolled in general education classes, center based programs, state or charter school programs, or home or hospital programs. When appropriate caseloads for itinerant teachers are considered, factors such as mileage, direct service versus a consultation model, age of students, number of students with additional disabilities, and dynamics of the school climate must also be considered. A ratio of 1:10 to 1:24 is an appropriate caseload.
Typical responsibilities of the itinerant teacher may include but are not limited to:
Applications for Advocacy
Just having access to this one standard, a parent can fight for the delivery of instruction by competent instructors who have expertise in deafness. Imagine applying all 36 standards to your child’s education!
The full document (pdf) can be downloaded at:
Even if you live outside of Colorado, these guidelines can be useful in determining programming for any student.
There are other national resources which articulate programming for students. The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) created a book on essential program elements for students who are deaf/hard of hearing, entitled, “Meeting the Needs of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Educational Services Guidelines.” This book describes considerations when designing appropriate services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, including those students with multiple disabilities. A full continuum of options is included. The guidelines represent “best practices” from the field and the book is an outstanding resource for communication and coordination among organizations on behalf of students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. This is a particularly poignant document to utilize in determining services, as often special education directors in a district may not be aware of what their own organization recognizes as basic services for this population of students. This book can be purchased at: http://www.nasdse.org.
The National Agenda for Moving Forward on Achieving Educational Equality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students promotes a set of priorities stated as goals that are designed to bring about considerable improvement in quality and nature of educational services and programs for deaf and hard of hearing students. It is brought forward as an “agenda” or a list of things to be done in order to close the achievement gap that exists for students. The National Agenda is organized around eight goals—each with a goal area, a goal statement, background information about the goal and a series of objectives to achieve the goal. For each objective there is a rationale for its selection. This document can be downloaded at http://www.ndepnow.org/pdfs/national_agenda.pdf.
No Resources…No Excuse
Deaf education reform movements around the country can be tracked at a Hands & Voices sponsored website at www.ndepnow.org
Many of the documents referenced in this article are sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust in your administrator’s office. Can you imagine what would happen if every family made it their business to read and understand them? What if every family walked through the door of their IEP meeting with a pile of these recommendations to lead the IEP discussion? Maybe then true reform could come to our children’s education in a way that some of us have never seen before. Imagine what could happen if we all stood together to improve programs and educational outcomes for our children who are deaf/hard of hearing. ~