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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Black Deaf Students: A Model for Educational Success

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Local universities can provide many services for students and school personnel. Nettle (1991) discusses the need for postsecondary programs to establish partnerships with schools, “especially in schools with high minority populations.” These partnerships can assist with curriculum development and help teachers develop teaching and learning techniques directed toward university preparation (p. 90). In addition, research staff at the postsecondary level can aid schools in developing databases for collecting useful information that will help schools with identifying educational areas that need strengthening and developing strategies for improving student achievement.

Conclusions and Research Recommendations

There is a great need to establish models of policy and program planning that would help schools develop protective factors that contribute to African American deaf and hard of hearing adolescents’ academic success and transition to postsecondary programs. Very little empirical research focuses on African American deaf and hard of hearing adolescents, and much of the research that exists is not recent. Given the absence of longitudinal studies of African American deaf and hard of hearing students that use the resilience construct as a frame of reference, there is a need for more in-depth and ongoing study in this area.

It is crucial that the research on African American deaf and hard of hearing adolescents move beyond identifying risk factors. Such research must focus on protective factors that foster academic achievement and postsecondary transition to either a four-year college, a training program, or gainful employment. These are the issues that need to he addressed for policy, program planning, classroom instruction, and developing parent partnerships to improve academic achievement, career development, and transition. There is a need to know what schools, administrators, teachers, and support staff can do to facilitate and enhance protective processes. Research has shown that a large group of African American deaf and hard of hearing students, though in desegregated schools, are still receiving below-standard educations. Some researchers, educators, and administrators are continuing to reinforce stereotyped theories about African American deaf and hard of hearing adolescents. This deficit perspective perpetuates low achievement and subsequent poor transition results in those African American deaf and hard of hearing students who otherwise could be prepared to enter postsecondary programs. Research on resilience should focus on the interrelationship of parents, schools, and cultural identity as protective factors in the functioning of high-achieving African American deaf and hard of hearing students.

Studies of parents of African American deaf and hard of hearing students should focus on the protective factors that lead to achievement when their children are separated from them for most of the year while they are in residential programs. Parents should be taught how to set in motion the steps that other parents of successful children in mainstream programs are taking to provide protective factors for their children when they have an additional barrier of being the minority in a hearing school setting. They should learn how parents promote their children’s positive racial and ethnic socialization when they are separated from them and in predominantly White settings. They should be shown how parents perceive their roles in the IEP as it relates to transition goals and what factors contribute to positive outcomes in the IEP process.

A collaborative partnership needs to be established among families, schools, businesses, community organizations, and key stakeholders. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine if a comprehensive transition plan that focuses on resilience increases the number of African American students who successfully transition through four-year colleges and universities.

From the participants’ discussions in this study, there is clearly a need for elementary secondary, and postsecondary school programs to be more culturally sensitive to African American deaf and hard of hearing students, This can he achieved through more support from teachers and support staff in strident development and by schools taking a more active role in training programs related to cultural sensitivity. Many schools have policies and mission statements regarding cultural diversity; however, based on the participants’ comments, more is needed to create cultural awareness and respect. In addition, colleges and universities should be more aware of how the lack of cultural awareness affects instructional and other services for African American students. Research is required to understand what factors contribute to African American deaf and hard of hearing students’ likelihood of graduating from predominately White high schools, colleges, and universities for the deaf.

Until more models emerge and until longitudinal data are collected on successful African American deaf and hard of hearing students, there will continue to be a lack of understanding of how to establish effective policies, programs, and strategies that result in increased numbers of African American deaf and hard of hearing college graduates.

This model presents one research-based approach that is not costly and is relatively easy to implement. It could make a vast difference in the academic achievement of African American deaf and hard of hearing students.

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