Defining "Appropriate" Education for Students who are
Deaf/Hard of Hearing

The following is an excerpt from: COLORADO QUALITY STANDARDS

Programs and Services for Students Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Educators have long been aware that programs for deaf and hard of hearing children have been woefully inadequate, producing graduates who were not achieving their cognitive potential. With the movement toward Standards Based Education in the 90.s came increased emphasis on academic achievement and accountability measures. By the year 2000, 75% of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Colorado were found to be performing at unsatisfactory or partially proficient levels on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and it was determined that because current methods had failed to bring about substantive improvements in student outcomes, dramatic change was imminent and necessary. The Colorado Department of Education established a statewide Deaf Education Reform Task Force which met regularly from 2000 to 2002 to:

  • Analyze the changing demographics and needs of children who are deaf and hard of hearing in the state of Colorado

  • Improve educational outcomes for deaf and hard-of-hearing children

  • Recommend an effective communication-based service delivery system for deaf and hard-of-hearing children in Colorado.

The Task Force invited Lawrence Siegel, the founder and Director of the National Deaf Education Project (NDEP) to provide guidance. The NDEP was a four-year project funded by the Milken Family Foundation with the central goal of establishing broad standards and quality programs placing communication development and access at the core of deaf education. The Task Force studied NDEP.s new vision for deaf education embodied in the "California Report: Communication Access and Quality Education for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children" (California Department of Education, 1999) and collaborated with deaf education consultants from Arizona. After two years of intensive work, the Colorado Deaf Education Reform Task Force completed Phase I activities and published its report, .A Blueprint For Closing the Gap: Developing a Statewide System of Service Improvements for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. (Colorado Department of Education, 2002a). As a result of the evidence collected, analyzed, and discussed in this document, the Task Force made the following recommendations:

  1. Colorado should implement a coordinated statewide regional education system as an educational option that will effectively and efficiently meet the needs of deaf and hard-of hearing children.

  2. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students should have access to quality academic and extracurricular programs that are communication-driven. Criteria for establishing these programs should be implemented.

  3. Communication-driven programs serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students should be subject to on-going assessment to assure full access, student achievement, and high standards.

  4. On-going training, mentoring, and a full spectrum of professional development activities should be implemented statewide to support and improve proficiency for specialty providers, general educators, administrators, and families.

  5. The Colorado Department of Education should collaborate with national and state agencies and higher education programs to recruit, train, and encourage retention of staff providing services to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

  6. A system of community and parent education that leads to meaningful involvement and that will result in full access and collaboration so that each child will have opportunities to maximize potential and achieve high standards should be implemented.

  7. Colorado should develop and implement a funding system that will provide sufficient resources for a quality education for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

In May of 2003, Governor Owens signed Senate Bill 03-53 into law giving the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind (CSDB) authority to operate regional programs and thus opened the door for restructuring deaf education in the state of Colorado. During the summer of 2003 the Task Force on Deaf Education Reform began Phase II activities for implementation. This phase set into motion three strategic projects focused on development of:

  1. A plan for governance and funding structures for regional service plans

  2. An accountability and assessment plan for regional services

  3. Standards of practice and service guidelines.

In order to achieve #3, The Standards Work Group, comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders, created a document, the Colorado Quality Standards for Children and Youth who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.. These standards represent an important commitment to a seamless education system for children and youth birth through age 21.

The document contains recommended standards for quality education programs serving deaf and hard-of-hearing children and youth and is designed for use by parents, family members, teachers, administrators, governing boards, support staff and other interagency personnel, and community stakeholders. These standards provide guidance for identifying, assessing, planning, providing, and monitoring communication-driven education programs that will result in higher academic achievement while supporting the social and emotional development of learners who are deaf and hard of hearing. In preparing this document, two references were extensively cited: California Programs for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students: Guidelines for Quality Standards (California Department of Education, 2000) and A Blueprint for Closing the Gap: Developing a Statewide System of Service Improvements for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Colorado Department of Education, 2002a). The standards in the document were developed to be consistent with federal and state laws and regulations that govern educational services for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and youth (ages 0-21) in Colorado.

Below is one of the quality standards that were developed in the document:

Focus on Authentic Peer Interactions : Standard 29

The child/youth has authentic peer interactions and is able to participate in social and academic discussions

"Peer interaction is essential for many aspects of human development, from birth onwards. Children and youth learn a great deal through interactions with others, and interactions with peers appear to be particularly important. The positive effects of having authentic peer interactions are widespread. Interactions with friends and classmates are essential to social-emotional development, as well as the development of personality. As importantly, being involved in discussions and arguments scaffolds the development of language and cognition. There are many skills that can only be learned during rich, cognitively interesting interactions. Throughout childhood and adolescence, children learn to discuss, negotiate, argue, debate, and create emotional bonds during interactions. These interactions allow children to develop the language skills associated with a particular form of discourse, such as argumentation. There are also cognitive skills required for certain types of discourse, such as seeing a problem from multiple perspectives.

Often, interactions with peers are richer in terms of discussion and argumentation than interactions with adults. These discussions force children to think of alternative perspectives and to learn complex relationships. With peers, children learn what kinds of evidence are legitimate and what debate tactics are acceptable, credible, and productive. Quite literally, peer interactions are food for thought. Not only is interaction with peers essential to language and cognitive development, but interaction with friends seems to provide an even richer context for learning. Children have been found to use better problem-solving skills, write richer and more elaborate text, use better negotiation and

collaboration when working with friends rather than other classmates. Children have more freedom to explore conflicts and resolve disputes with friends than with non-friends or adults. Despite the essential nature of peer interaction, deaf and hard-of-hearing children often have more difficulty accessing interactions with hearing peers than what is thought. This may be particularly true when a child or youth needs the services of an interpreter to access interactions. The presence of an adult in peer interactions can interfere with some types of peer interactions. Deaf children and youth should be in a learning environment that allows and supports authentic peer interactions and opportunities for true friendships. As required by the Communication Plan, the IEP team must consider the availability of deaf and hard of-hearing role models and peers of the same communication mode and language. Educational placement, therefore, should provide social interaction with peers and friends, in addition to access to curricular materials. Children who have difficulty communicating with hearing peers, either throug spoken English or an interpreter, may need an educational placement that includes more children who are deaf or hard of hearing to ensure peer interaction.

There are also other ways for deaf and hard-of-hearing children to have contact with other deaf and hard-of-hearing peers. These include summer camp programs specifically for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. These programs also provide access to deaf role models. Similarly, older youth can participate in the Junior National Association of the Deaf. When placement options limit peer interaction, it is important for the deaf or hard-of-hearing child or youth to have some rich peer experiences outside of the school day."

The Colorado Quality Standards Publication is a valuable tool for parents, educators, and others in developing not only quality 'systems' of care, they can also be used to develop and implement the individualized needs of students in the IEP process.

The document may be downloaded in its entirety at:

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