Saturday, September 11, 2010

Deaf Education Scores or Deaf Students' Language Scores?

This is in response to Valhallian’s comment left in my blog posting of “A Response to California Academy of Audiologists’ Opposition to AB2072. His comments were:

“You bring up quite legitimate points. What I am wondering though, is there any way that one could compare test scores between the various communication modes? For example, I would imagine one may be able to acquire various state test scores from various deaf schools? Altho I also understand that some states do not even post the test scores of there state schools for the deaf. If it is proven that ASL-based programs show higher test scores, in reading, math, etc., than other communication modes, then it would be very easy to stand by those results and flaunt them in the legislators faces. Until that happens, unfortunately, odds are that the power of lobbying will go a long ways in determining the direction that legislation goes. I look forward to reading more of your blog postings.”

I did not want to offer my opinions as much as I am tempted to. I promised Valhallian I would make some inquiries and get back to him. Here’s what I learned:

There are too many variables to determine “test scores between the communication options.”

To clarify, the term, “communication options,” is really a misnomer. There are only two languages, American Sign Language (ASL) and oral English. Then there are communication methods like Total Communication and Cued Speech. They are actually tools of oral English.

So, we need to ask how many students have enough “language skills” that when they become Kindergarteners, they are “ready” to learn academically.

In the State of California, deaf students’ scores are a part of special education students’ scores. That means that deaf students’ scores are mixed with autistic, or blind, or developmentally-delayed students’ scores. This is one of the reasons why we are unable to answer your question.

Only through a legislative mandate were we able to cull the 2007 scores that were dismal and heartbreaking. To get the 2010 scores of deaf students would require another legislative mandate.

FACT: only 8% of deaf and 15% hard of hearing children are reading at proficient (grade level) or advanced levels (above grade level).

There are 4000 deaf students and 8000 hard-of-hearing students in the State of California. According to the statistics above, only 320 (out of 4000) deaf students and 1200 hard of hearing (out of 8000) students are reading at grade level or above.

Between California Schools for the Deaf, Fremont and Riverside, there is approximately 1000 students. They receive many “transfer” students from mainstreamed or public schools for a variety of reasons. It is “common” to suggest that state schools for the deaf have become “dumping grounds” for failing students.

Many of those transfer students at ages 12 and older have delayed language development. That would unfairly influence their yearly academic scores.

Private oral schools are small schools, and they are not required to post statistics. If their students were so successful, you would think they would volunteer to post scores. In reality, their successful oral deaf students go to mainstreamed public schools, while their oral-language-delayed students stay in oral private schools or eventually transfer to a deaf school. Their “successful students” could also decide to transfer to schools for the deaf. And their failures do not show in their scores.

Many times have I heard oral deaf students would have sign language interpreters in their classes. I’ve always been baffled how a deaf student could be “oral” and have sign language interpreters in their classes. If they didn’t have their sign language interpreters, would they make it academically?

Again, now, you can see why the scores would not reflect this appropriately. An oral student could be successful because of the sign language interpreter, not the oral language choice.

You get the idea why all of the school scores for deaf students do not show their “true colors” of the schools.

That leaves us with 11,000 DHH students whose language choices we do not know. They are not likely to speak American Sign Language. Nevertheless, the statistics above tell us that most definitely those deaf students have impoverished or delayed language that clearly have effects on their reading scores.

Now, there are only a handful of ASL schools in America.

Again, those schools along with most state schools for the deaf probably get most of their students when they are transferred for a variety of reasons such as failing academically or inadequate social opportunities.

It would require experienced statisticians/researchers to take all of California’s 12,000 deaf students’ scores and analyze them accurately and appropriately.

What we will need to do is to ask for another legislative mandate to confirm that many of our personal opinions that could actually be baseless. Each and every one of us has an “opinion,” (I am equally guilty.) and over the process of doing so, some of those “opinions” have become mis-facts.


Louis D. Brandeis said:

“Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.”


  1. Not to mention, The ASL student with an interpreter or oral deaf in mainstreamed school would not even show on the test score because he is blended in with his hearing peers. That mean he would be the only deaf person in the whole school so his score doesn't really show when it comes to public school hearing school performance vs. deaf school performance. As far I'm concern these deaf children public school may be below average as well... or maybe average/above average since they are in public school instead of being sent to deaf school.

  2. Each deaf student that has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was counted in the state of California's 12,000 total. I do not know if that's true for all other states.

    For a deaf student -- ASL or oral English -- to receive services such as interpreting services or audiological or itinerant services, they must have an IEP. It is possible that there are more hard of hearing students that do not receive IEP services.

  3. IEP is not just for the deaf (people with ADHD or disabilities are on it too) . so do you mean 12,000 deaf people?

  4. You are correct; I mean 12,000 DHH students in the state of California who have IEPs. IEP was the only identifier of those DHH students and it's from those IEPs that they got the reading scores. That's what I was trying to say.

    Thank you for allowing me to correct that.

  5. Ok, I was thinking about the California STAR test for the school of the deaf

  6. I am not sure what you are asking. Were you asking about STAR scores for schools for the deaf? Their scores are included in the 12,000 DHH students, yes.

    As I said in my post, the two schools for the deaf have approximately 1,000 students. So, take away that and 1500 DHH students who score proficient or above, how do we explain 9,500 DHH students in the state of California who are not reading at grade level. Sadly, their Math scores aren't high, either.

  7. Everyone refuses to acknowledge that ASL is part of the problem. The students are taking the test in their second language! Of course they score lower than those taking it in their native, first language. Why will no one admit that is part of the whole reading issue???

  8. That's a worthy comment to consider.

    That would be a good blog topic.

  9. Even if it were possible to separate the variables for oral, ASL-included and hearing schools, it would not identify the true factors of English ability. For example:

    Mainstreamed oral students could have little interaction with fellow students. Some may become bookworms as compensation and develop good English skills that way, others may get into video games and internet chatting. To credit the school environment with their English skills would be grossly inaccurate.

  10. VERY clear deconstruction of the issues facing that question of "communication method" and test scores. And why schools for the Deaf don't show the higher scores that one would hope they would.

    However, CSD-Fremont did announce a year or two ago, that all, or almost all, of the students who had enrolled at CSD as Kindergarteners or before, graduated with full Calif. diplomas (passed their HS exit exams).

  11. "The students are taking the test in their second language! "

    Personally, I think we need to give students the tool to be able to take any test EQUALLY as their hearing peers. Deaf/hh should be able to do well in comprehending English, whether it is reading or writing. That's the goal of bilingual education, no? Isn't that what the majority of the Deaf want? To be treated as equal as their hearing peers?

  12. Marla,

    I did know that there were going to be too many variables and that some low test scores can be skewed due to others being added to the mix. I realize some people may say that it may also be a result on the part of some schools being perceived as being "dumping grounds", but what if there were a way to show test result of students that were never a part of the "dumping grounds" (as much as I hate this word, but it is being used). For example, do not include the scores of those that came in while delayed, cuz if those test scores are actually high, it only backs up the conclusion saying that ASL is just as good, if not better, ya know?

    now to respond to the commenter that was saying that these tests were not being given out in their native language, in this case being ASL, I pose this question. How does one give a reading test in ASL when it is not used as a written language?

  13. DonG. I would like to be able to follow up with what you said. I'll check with Fremont and see if I can get their scores. I heard Maryland School for the Deaf one year did outscore the countywide scores. Need to follow up on those.

  14. Candy, I agree English literacy is probably the ultimate "brass ring." I think most of us would agree on that.

    With that said, why aren't our 9,500 California DHH students have this ability to test well on English? Most of them are more likely to have oral English skills. Their skills are apparently not enough to test well on reading scores.

    As our reading scores (15%) for Hard of Hearing students show, their ability to hear English is not enough to perform grade-level reading scores.

    TIME magazine (September 20, 2010) cover story is "What Makes a School Great."

    "It all starts with the teacher....and why it's so hard to find good ones..."

    We can begin with the fluency level of teachers' ASL or students' fluency in oral English, both of which could be lacking.

    I cannot stress enough here that research in those issues is lacking as well.

  15. Valhallian, let's suppose we produce a solid body of research supporting ASL, would we be able to accept it?

    For example, in a recent article by Conway and colleagues (Conway et al., 2010), children who received cochlear implants were shown to suffer from cognitive deficits relative to hearing children in areas unrelated to language. Although the authors attribute those deficits to auditory deprivation, it is more likely that the deficits are due to an overall lack of language skills, which has been shown to correlate with cognitive skills.

    There is still much research to be done on the true efficacy of cochlear implants, not only on the ability to perceive spoken words, but on more long tern measures of global language ability, cognitive skills, and literacy skills.

    That should make us want to pause and reconsider our language and educational issues for deaf children.

    Children with cochlear implants do not necessarily acquire language skills through the device only. Parents need to be informed fully of the caveats.

  16. Marla, as long as the research is shown to be done in a neutral manner. I do not see why people in general would not accept it. Most research studies in the past have shown to be quite skewed and not done in a neutral way and they only select variables that work in their favor while deleting those that do not work in their favor. I have written about this way back where I stated that I would love to see a research study composed of experts in specific communication modes or options. But I do nit anticipate seeing that happen as odds are that this would likely run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. Who is going to foot the bill?

    I can't really imagine a company that may prefer one communication option over another being willing to fund such a full research when they would rather fund research that is skewed in their favor ya know?

  17. I cannot fathom any reason why such comparison scores cannot be undertaken. Let us face the facts, despite a lot of improvements in how classrooms and teaching aids have made learning easier for the deaf community, challenges still exist. These challenges invariably means that such folks are at a definite advantage though an educational institution cannot be blamed for it and this fact is realized by most people too. The statistics will not create any sort of discrimination or have any negative impact whatsoever.