- EditorialPreaching to the Choir
From June 25 to 27 this summer in Reno, Nevada, the American Instructors of the Deaf (CAID) held its first national conference since 1999. The sessions were quite informative and CAID is now planning to reinstate its traditional biennial series of national conferences. I strongly urge everyone to take advantage of the meeting scheduled for 2009. The Conference was also the site of the annual meeting of the Joint Annals Administrative Committee, which is comprised of representatives of CAID and the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf. Several issues of great importance were raised both at the Convention and at the Annals annual meeting. I would like to address two of these that I think are closely related; the responsibility for teaching deaf and hard of hearing children and the role of interpreters.
First, it was noted that we have reached a time in which more deaf and hard of hearing children are being taught by general education teachers than by trained teachers of the deaf; whether that is for good or for bad is a moot point, but it is a reality. This, of course, reflects a continuing trend away initially from residential school placement and later from day school placement that began with the baby boom after World War II and expanded during the rubella epidemic of the 1960s, when state legislatures were not willing to add residential facilities for what was considered a one-time-only explosion in the numbers of deaf and hard of hearing children. Most people do not realize that by 1970, before the passage of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94–142), and now IDEA, more deaf children were enrolled outside of residential schools .than inside. PL 94–142 and its subsequent reauthorizations, along with other factors, contributed to the trend and will probably do so for the foreseeable future. Passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has added another element to the mix. In the past half century or so, education of deaf and hard of hearing children has gone from an essentially independent enterprise to one under special education (PL 94–142) to the present situation where it is subsumed under general education (NCLB).
During this period, we have seen deaf children primarily being taught by teachers of the deaf in separate residential and day schools, followed by the growth of separate day classes, taught by teachers of the deaf, within schools serving predominantly hearing children, with an ensuing growth of resource rooms in which deaf students are placed in a homeroom with a teacher of the deaf and spend varying amounts of time in general education classes with hearing children. Now that mainstreaming has morphed into inclusion, the majority of deaf children now spend most or all of their school time in general education classes, with additional services provided by itinerant teachers or interpreters. Often there are no additional services, especially in rural areas. Frequently, states with large rural populations are those in which residential schools have been closed or whose attendance have dropped to the point where enrollments do not afford a critical mass of students, leading to the possibility/probability of additional school closings. Thus, children in sparsely populated states are damned by a lack of residential opportunities and poor-to-nonexistent support services in local school districts.
The question is what, if anything, those of us whose major concern is the education of deaf children, can do about it. Clearly, our professional preparation programs face great challenges. Our predominant model of preparing teachers for functioning in self-contained classrooms is still relevant, but applies to a decreasing number of children. The literature has several examples of calls to modify our preparation programs, or at least develop additional models to meet the plethora of options, each requiring different knowledge and skills, open to teachers of the deaf. For example, in the forthcoming winter issue of the Annals, Luft argues that teachers of the deaf should be prepared to function in support roles to general education teachers, concentrating on issues of communication and language and letting general education professional's...