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Academic Status of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students in public schools: Student, home, and service facilitators and detractors.

  • Dr. Shirin Antia/University of Arizona was available from 06/9/08 until 06/29/08 to answer questions and share ideas concerning her research and its implications for parents of children who are deaf/hard of hearing, their teachers and other professionals who work with them.
  • You are encouraged to read the research summary below and review the attached discussion.

Abstract: We examined facilitators and detractors of academic success of 25 deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) students selected from a pool of 187 students attending general education classes and enrolled in a study of academic progress. Interviews with their teachers of DHH, general education teachers, principals, parents, interpreters, and students themselves were analyzed for child, family, and school facilitators and detractors of academic status. Facilitators included student self-advocacy and motivation, high family and school expectations, families’ ability to help with homework, and good communication between professionals. Detractors included additional disabilities and poor family–school communication. A comparison of above- and below-average students revealed no single distinguishing facilitator or detractor. Each above-average student had many facilitators, whereas each below-average student had several significant detractors.

Introduction: We examined the multiple factors that influence academic success of deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students in general education classrooms. Approximately 85% of all DHH students in the United States are educated in public school programs with 43% spending most of the school day in general education classrooms (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs, 2004). These students often receive special education support, usually from itinerant teachers of DHH, sign language interpreters, and note-takers. The research literature on DHH and other special education students, suggests that child factors (intelligence, degree of hearing loss), family factors (family support of the child and the school program) and school and service factors (academic expectations, administrative support, teacher attitudes, support services) all affect student success (Karchmer & Mitchell, 2003; Luckner & Muir, 2001; Stinson & Antia, 1999).

Methods: The data in this study were collected as part of a large longitudinal study of academic and social progress of DHH students in general education classrooms. Twenty-five students were selected from the larger study sample of 187 students for in-depth case studies. These case-study students were interviewed along with their general education teachers, teachers of DHH, interpreters (when used), parents (or guardians) and school administrators. In addition to (and separately from) the interviews, we collected demographic and academic achievement data on each student.

We obtained demographic information from student files including degree of hearing loss, ethnicity, language(s) spoken at home, and the students’ mode of communication. We obtained data on academic achievement through school records of each student’s score on the state-administered standardized tests. We also asked their classroom teachers to complete the Academic Competence Scale (Gresham & Elliott, 1990) . This scale asks teachers to rate students on their reading and math skills compared to their classmates, and also on overall academic achievement, motivation, and classroom behavior.

Student characteristics
Of the twenty-five students, 15 (60%) had mild-moderate hearing loss, and 10 (40%) had severe-profound hearing loss. Sixty-four percent of the students had English as their home language; the other home languages included Spanish, ASL, and Navajo. Sixty percent of the students used spoken communication; the other 40% either used a combination of spoken and signed communication or only sign communication.

Results: After all the interviews were transcribed, we examined the interviews for facilitators and detractors of academic success for each student. We then classified each facilitator or detractor into three additional categories: child, family, and school or service variables. Finally, we looked to see if facilitators or detractors were different for students performing at high and low academic levels.

Child facilitators . Participating or being attentive in class was the most frequent facilitator mentioned (for 64% of students). Teachers commented on students being helpful and cooperative within group situations, noting that consistent classroom participation was important. The second most frequently mentioned child facilitator (for 60% of students) was having the personal motivation to succeed. Teachers, parents, and interpreters also noted that students needed to c onsistently attend school and to complete assigned work (for 44% of students). Finally, self-advocacy was mentioned as a facilitator for 44% of students.

Child detractors . The detractor mentioned most frequently was inconsistent use of amplification (35% of students). In some cases, teachers invested significant effort in creating plans to promote the use of personal hearing aids or classroom amplification devices, but were unsuccessful. Another frequent child detractor, mentioned for 36% of students, was poor or inconsistent completion of homework or class assignments. Lack of, or difficulty with, classroom participation was also noted as a detractor for 28% of students.

Family facilitators . High parental support of the student and the school program was perceived as a facilitator for 64% of the students. High parental expectations for student performance and the importance parents placed on school were cited as facilitators for 52% of students. A specific aspect of parental support was the ability to help with homework. Parental homework help included ensuring that their child had time to complete homework, monitoring the completion of homework, and providing specific help with assignments.

Family detractors . The most frequently mentioned family detractor, for 24% of the students, was the inability of parents to help with homework, or a lack of consequences for failing to complete homework. Another detracting factor was the inability or failure of parents to communicate with school personnel mentioned for 12% of the students.

School/service facilitators . The two factors that were perceived most frequently as facilitating achievement were expectations that the DHH student would achieve commensurate with classmates (80% of students) and high expectations for all students within a specific school (60%). If teachers, parents, or interpreters mentioned that a school held high expectations for DHH students, they generally also noted that the school maintained high expectations for all students. The willingness of the general education teacher to make classroom accommodations that specifically addressed the needs of the students with hearing loss was mentioned as a facilitator as was the support provided by the teacher of DHH (40% of students). Good communication between professionals providing services (typically the teacher of DHH, the general education teacher, and the interpreter) was specifically mentioned as a facilitator for 24% of students.

School/service detractors . Inadequate accommodations by general education teachers were the main detractors mentioned for 16% of students. For some students (12%) low academic expectations was mentioned as a detractor.

Differences between students at high and low academic levels
. We classified six of the twenty-five students as above-average and seven as below-average academically. These classifications were based on the standardized test results and the teacher ratings of academic competence. We looked to see if specific facilitators or detractors differentiated between these two groups of students. Although there was no single factor that separated all the above-average from all the below-average students, the above-average students had facilitators in all three categories, and few significant detractors in any category. The below-average students also had facilitators in all three categories but, in contrast to the above-average students, they also had detractors in all three categories. These detractors, far from being minor, were likely to have a significant negative impact. Detractors included barriers in communication between parents and school personnel, services were received late in the student’s life, and little communication between the personnel providing services.

As an example, we present one of the above-average, and one of the below-average students. Both students were described as motivated to learn and as having good attendance. The above-average student was described as a good communicator, and participated fully in the classroom. The below-average student was very late in receiving services and had some attention difficulties. The family of the above-average student had high expectations, was very involved with the school, knowledgeable about the services their child received, and communicated frequently with the teacher of DHH. The family of the below-average student had moved a considerable distance to obtain services for their child. However, they did not have high expectations for academic success for their child, nor could they communicate with their child fluently. Because of language, transportation, and time barriers, they could not communicate with school personnel and had little knowledge of the services that their child received. Both students received services from interpreters and teachers of DHH. School personnel for the above-average student had high expectations of all students, and the teacher of DHH, the general education teacher, and interpreter, worked together as a team. In contrast, the professionals serving the below-average student had little communication amongst themselves.

Implications: These qualitative case studies made it possible for us to obtain a comprehensive picture of each student and weigh facilitators and detractors. None of the facilitators and detractors identified was surprising. Most would be expected based on the special education literature and clinical knowledge. However, we anticipated finding some specific facilitators or detractors that distinguished between students with high and low academic achievement. Instead, we found that students who were not doing well seemed to have cumulative and multiplicative detractors that overshadowed facilitators. It may not be only a single, particular, factor that puts a DHH student at risk for poor achievement but the number of risk factors. Thus, it may not be sufficient to focus on alleviating single risk factors. Programs may have to tackle multiple detractors simultaneously.

Clearly some child and family factors are outside of the control of educators. However, the presence of family and child risk factors should alert professionals that additional efforts should be expended to ensure that program facilitators are in place. Since communication among professionals is a facilitator, it might be imperative for such communication to occur when students are at risk for poor academic achievement. This may mean that itinerant teachers of DHH be provided additional time in their schedules to communicate with teachers of below-average students.

For these students and their families it might be important to provide alternative ways of offering services. For example, there were parents of signing, below-average students, who could not communicate with their children, and also could not communicate with the school, because they spoke minimal English and lacked transportation. For these parents, sign language classes at school or even at community agencies, where communication is primarily in English, may not be accessible. Instead, services offered in the home might be a viable option.

High expectations of DHH students by their teachers was the most frequently mentioned facilitator of success. High expectations are a result of staff development, instructional practices, and homework policies. Therefore it is important that administrators and teachers pay attention to the process by which high expectations are achieved. General education teachers and administrators involved with DHH students will need to hold them to standards similar to hearing peers, but will also need to implement instructional strategies that allow these students to achieve such standards. Thus, general education teachers may need to know that DHH students can complete homework in a timely manner. They may also need to know that all modifications are not equal, and that all kinds of modifications should not always be routine. For example, teachers should not always modify writing assignments, but might lengthen the time and provide additional feedback on writing assignments for DHH students.

Gresham, F. M., & Elliott, S. N. (1990).
Social Skills Rating System . Circle Pines: American Guidance Service.

Karchmer, M., & Mitchell, R. E. (2003). Demographic and achievement characteristics of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. In M. Marschark & P. E. Spencer (Eds.),
Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language and Education (pp. 21-37). New York: Oxford University Press.

Luckner, J. L., & Muir, S. (2001). Successful students who are Deaf in general education settings.
American Annals of the Deaf , 435-445.

Stinson, M. S., & Antia, S. D. (1999). Considerations in Educating Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students in Inclusive Settings. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 4 , 163-175.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs. (2004).
26th Annual (2004) report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Susanne Reed, Shirin D. Antia and Kathryn H. Kreimeyer
Academic Status of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students in public schools: Student, home, and service facilitators and detractors.
J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ., 2008; 13: 485-502.