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Reforms: The Impact on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students|
Student demographics are but one area where there is diversity within deaf education. Educational setting is also more varied for students who are deaf or hard of hearing than for students in regular education (Marschark, Lang, & Albertini, 2002). The history behind education for deaf students includes initiatives at the federal level. The Education of the Deaf Act, most recently amended in 2008, provides funding for the education of deaf students in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary settings. Gallaudet University (originally Gallaudet College, founded in 1864) and the National Institute of the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology are both funded through this legislation. As part of its charge, Gallaudet also hosts the Kendall Demonstration School and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. Collectively, these federally funded institutions serve as centers of educational research, resources for teacher preparation, and advocacy for parents and teachers across the country.
Depending on the setting, a student who is deaf or hard of hearing may be enrolled either with deaf or hard of hearing peers in a regional program that combines separate and integrated instruction or as a single student integrated into a regular education classroom (Blackorby & Knokey, 2006). These are common, but not mutually exclusive, designations. For example, some schools for the deaf may offer instructional support services in district programs or regular educational settings. The overlap in categories can make an educational setting difficult to characterize from site to site. Another useful designation is the percentage of time students who are deaf or hard of hearing spend with hearing peers. In the 2007–08 Gallaudet Annual Survey, with a sample skewed largely toward students at schools for the deaf, only a quarter of students spent more than 25 hours per week with hearing peers. Half spent no more than 5 hours per week in an integrated format. By looking at both time spent with hearing peers and the location designation, researchers and policymakers can gain a better understanding of the characteristics of each educational setting for students who are deaf or hard of hearing (Mitchell & Karchmer, 2006).
Along with the diverse settings is variability in the roles of educational professionals who work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. For example, students may be served by a teacher of the deaf, a special educator, or by a regular education teacher with an educational interpreter. Teachers of the deaf are professionals who have been trained in professional programs that focus on deaf education. A special education teacher, in contrast, receives preparation that applies to the broad spectrum of students with disabilities. It is possible that a special education teacher will not have specific training in the language and communication strategies to use with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Regular education teachers are the most common type of educator of students who are deaf or hard of hearing (Muller, 2005a). Their professional preparation includes little to no formal training in pedagogy for students with disabilities, students who are English Language Learners, or students who are deaf or hard of hearing. When a regular education teacher has students who use sign language, an educational interpreter translates the teacher’s spoken language for the student. Each kind of teacher training lends to a particular emphasis and skill set used by teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Educational settings employ teachers with different preparation and certification and, thus, draw on different strengths and resources. As we will discuss in Chapter 6, teachers in different professional roles experience teacher-quality components of accountability reform in different ways.
Educational placement for students who are deaf or hard of hearing has changed significantly in the last 30 years. Much of this change is due to larger inclusion movements and implementation of IDEA (Stinson & Antia, 1999). IDEA stipulates that students must be taught in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE) possible. Depending on how LRE and the needs of the student are interpreted, IDEA can result in a push toward regular education settings and away from separate settings such as schools for the deaf. Figure 1.1 shows the results of demographic surveys conducted through the Gallaudet Research Institute (GRI) in each of the last three decades (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2008; Karchmer, Allen, & Brown, 1988). These surveys divide student placement into three categories: (a) schools for the deaf, (b) programs for deaf students in general education settings, and (c) regular education classrooms. As time has passed, the Annual Survey has become more representative of schools for the deaf than other settings; the overall population of students who are deaf or hard of hearing has a greater proportion of students in regular education settings than is reported below (Mitchell, 2004).
In interpreting this graph, it is helpful to look at the relative proportion of students at each site within each year. The proportion of students who are deaf or hard of hearing in schools exclusively serving deaf students has declined whereas the proportion in regular education has increased significantly during this time frame. This transition happened in phases over the three decades. The most dramatic shift between 1977 and 1985 was the proportion of students moving from schools for the deaf to programs for students who are deaf or hard of hearing in regular education settings (trend confirmed in Holden-Pitt & Diaz, 1998). This shift reflects the move toward integration with hearing peers (Bello, 2007; Blackorby & Knokey, 2006). Yet even more striking is the significant jump in regular education placements in the 1990s and 2000s (Moores, 2004). Regular education