- Inclusion, Itinerant Teachers, and the Pull-out Model
In the Spring 2008 issue of the Annals I addressed the paucity of research on the effectiveness of Bilingual-Bicultural (Bi-Bi) instruction in its present form, as indicated by the lack of measures of academic achievement (Moores, 2008). One hundred and sixty years ago, during the first year of publication of the Annals, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1848) wrote “On the Natural Language of Signs and Its Values and Uses in the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb.” We have had linguistic and sociolinguistic research on American Sign Language (ASL) and other national sign languages for more than 50 years, and ASL has been an integral part of Bi-Bi instruction for 20 years. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the percentage of deaf and hard of hearing children taught through Bi-Bi instruction seems to have plateaued around 10%, mostly in residential or center schools (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2006), with relatively little presence in regular public schools, which a growing majority of deaf and hard of hearing students attend. My position is that hard data is needed for public school programs to commit to Bi-Bi instruction or to incorporate ASL as part of an instructional program.
Admittedly, applied research is difficult, especially today, in view of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) mandated for each deaf or hard of hearing student. Random assignment of subjects to different educational treatments is not possible, and even causal-comparative research is difficult. However, there are alternatives that can and should be used, and there is a growing literature on both quantitative and qualitative research with small and dispersed populations that can be applied not only to modes of communication with deaf students but also to other issues such as school placement and support services.
In terms of numbers of children served, a great need exists for information and data on children placed in “inclusive” classrooms with hearing children and receiving support services from itinerant teachers of the deaf. According to the 2006–2007 Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2006), 39% of all deaf and hard of hearing students received support services from itinerant teachers, meaning that more than 90% of their instruction time was in the regular classroom.
The figure of 39% is probably an underestimate. Mitchell (2004) reported that the number of deaf and hard of hearing children identified in the Annual Survey was far smaller than the numbers reported by IDEA-mandated state child counts. Because the numbers of children in regular education settings were undercounted in the survey, Mitchell recommended using weighted sample results to estimate more accurate figures.
According to Clifford (2008), we have a good deal of information on itinerant teachers and their responsibilities and a fair amount of information on the students they serve, but we have much less on their actual teaching and nothing on academic outcomes. As with classroom teachers of the deaf, itinerant teachers tend to be white, female, and hearing; and the percentage of deaf itinerant teachers is even lower than the percentage of deaf classroom teachers. Itinerant teachers tend to be well-educated, state-certified teachers of the deaf, with considerable experience both as classroom teachers of the deaf and itinerant teachers. Typically, they serve children in several schools, often from kindergarten through high school. Instruction usually is provided on a pull-out basis; the student is taken out of the classroom for a period of time, typically from 30 to 60 minutes, and receives tutoring in a separate placement on a one-to-one basis. These teachers travel from as little as 20 miles per week in urban/suburban areas to more than 150 miles per week in rural areas. Itinerant teachers enjoy the diversity of students and freedom in scheduling, but they have problems with time constraints, travel, and isolation. They need to have a broad knowledge of general education, student levels, subject matter, and communication modes.
In Clifford’s summary of students served by itinerant teachers, slightly more than half were male. Most students had a less than profound hearing loss, wore hearing aids, [End Page 273] were in the...