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Academic status and progress of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students in general education classrooms.

Dr. Shirin Antia was available from 9/21/09 until 10/11/09 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.


This study reports on the academic status and progress, over a five-year period, of deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students attending general education classrooms in public schools. The study participants were 197 deaf or hard-of-hearing students with mild to profound hearing loss who attended general education classes for two or more hours per day. We obtained scores on standardized achievement tests of math, reading, and language/writing, and standardized teacher ratings of academic competence annually, for five years, together with other demographic and communication data.

Results on standardized achievement tests indicated that, over the five-year period, 63-79% of students scored in the average or above-average range in math, 48-68% in reading, and 55-76% in language/writing. The standardized test scores for the group were, on average, half a standard deviation below hearing norms. Average student progress in each subject area was consistent with, or better than that made by the norm group of hearing students, and 79-81% of students made one or more year’s progress annually. Teachers rated 69%-81% of students as average or above-average in academic competence over the five years. The teacher ratings also indicated that 89% of students made average or above-average progress.

Introduction and Purpose

Approximately 48% of DHH students nationally spend more than 16 hours a week in classrooms with hearing students (Gallaudet Research Institute, November 2008). Early identification, early intervention, and the widespread use of cochlear implants is likely to increase this percentage in future decades. Although there is a concern that their academic and communication needs cannot be met in general education classrooms, comparatively little is known about the academic status of this population of students. Data on academic achievement of DHH students are traditionally obtained on national samples that include a large proportion of students with profound hearing loss in self-contained settings. However, a majority of DHH students in general education classrooms have less-than-severe hearing loss (Karchmer & Mitchell, 2003). The needs of these hard-of-hearing students are often overlooked because of the erroneous belief that they can function easily in oral environments and have less need for support services than students who are deaf (Marschark, Lang, & Albertini, 2002; Ross, Brackett, & Maxon, 1982) . Since hard-of-hearing students constitute 52% of students reported to the Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth (Gallaudet Research Institute, November 2008) and 78% of DHH students in general education classrooms (Karchmer & Mitchell, 2003) it is important to obtain current data on the academic status and progress of both hard-of-hearing and deaf students, as was the focus of this study.

We examined academic status of the DHH students in three ways: normative academic status, classroom academic status and academic progress (Semmel & Frick, 1985). Normative academic status refers to students’ standing compared to hearing students on national or state achievement tests. Classroom academic status refers to students’ achievement in comparison with classmates and can be measured by obtaining teachers’ perceptions of students’ achievement and ability to learn expected academic content. Academic progress refers to the change in academic achievement from one year to the next and can be measured both by looking at gains on achievement tests and teacher perception of student change.


The participants were 197 DHH students who a) had an identified bi-lateral or unilateral hearing loss; b) did not have additional severe cognitive disabilities; c) received direct or consultative services from teachers of DHH or had an IEP; d) attended general education classrooms in public schools for two or more hours each day; and e) were in grades 2 - 8 at the beginning of the study. Once enrolled, students stayed in the study unless we were unable to locate them or obtain data on them in subsequent years. Over half the students had mild and moderate hearing losses; 85% spent three or more hours in the general education classroom. Spoken communication was the primary mode for most students, although 24% used at least some sign communication. Twenty-three percent of students had a home language that was not English, and 37% belonged to minority ethnic groups.

Data collection

We obtained demographic data, teacher ratings of students’ communication proficiency, students’ self-ratings of classroom participation, and preferred communication mode annually. Normative academic status was measured using standardized achievement tests normally administered as part of the state accountability system. Classroom academic status was measured through a teacher rating scale – the Academic Competence Scale of the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) (Gresham & Elliott, 1990). Academic progress was examined on both normative and classroom academic data.


Normative Academic Status and Progress.

We obtained student achievement on math, reading and writing annually. We converted the standardized academic achievement scores to Normal Curve Equivalents (NCE) where the average score for the population of all students is 50 and the standard deviation is 21; students scoring between 30 and 70 (within one standard deviation of the mean) are considered average; students scoring below 30 are below-average, while those scoring above 70 are above-average. In each content area (reading, writing, math) over 50% of the students scored within the average or above-average range. In Math over two-thirds of the students scored within this range. Average math achievement (NCE) scores over the 5 years ranged from 43 – 45; reading achievement ranged from 34 – 38, and writing achievement ranged from 35 – 42. Thus, one could characterize reading and writing achievement as being in the low average range, while math achievement was slightly below average. As a group, the DHH students averaged one year’s progress in one year’s time in math and reading, and significantly greater than one year’s annual progress in writing. Eighty-one percent of students averaged one year’s progress in one year’s time in math and writing, while 79% averaged one year’s progress in one year’s time in reading.

Classroom Academic Status and Progress.

The general education teachers rated each of the DHH students annually using the Academic Competence Scale. The scale includes items on reading, math, motivation, and overall academic competence in comparison to grade-level and classroom-level teacher expectations. The Academic Competence Scale has a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Students scoring between 85 and 115 are considered average, below 85 are below-average, and those scoring above 115 are above-average. Teachers rated between 70-80% of students in the average range during each of the five years. However, the percentage of students who were rated below average ranged from 19-27% (higher than the expected 16% for the general population). The teachers’ ratings showed that 70% of the DHH students made average progress annually, while 19% made above-average progress. Teachers rated only 11% of students as making below-average progress.


The good news is that the majority of these students are achieving within the normal range of hearing students on standardized tests of math, reading, and writing; and most are perceived by their teachers as performing academically within the range of their classmates. Most of the students are also making one year’s progress in one year’s time, and, in the area of writing, many are making more than one year’s progress in a year’s time. Previous researchers (Jensema, 1978; Wolk & Allen, 1984) have reported that the typical growth rate (at least in reading comprehension) is about one-third of a grade equivalent in one year’s time. The not-so-good news is that the group is in the low average range on standardized achievement tests in reading, and, despite making progress, may not be closing the performance gap between them and hearing students. However, the gap is much smaller than that reported by other researchers (Karchmer & Mitchell, 2003).

There are several reasons why the data from this sample may be different from other reported achievement data on DHH students. The sample in this study includes a large number of hard-of-hearing children who are often overlooked in other research because they are difficult to locate. Students are often placed in general education because it is the belief of their teachers and parents that they can thrive in these classrooms – in other words, these students are not randomly selected. It is quite likely that they are not representative of the general population of DHH students on hard-to-measure variables such as motivation to succeed. Another reason that these students may be performing academically higher than those in previous studies is because they might have more exposure to the general education curriculum than students educated in self-contained classrooms (Soukup, Wehmeyer, Bashinski, & Bovaird, 2007) . Other research with DHH students (Holt, 1994; Kluwin, 1993) has indicated that access to the general academic curriculum is associated with higher achievement and progress. Finally, it may be that these students are in an environment where they are encouraged by parents, teachers and peers to achieve.


Gallaudet Research Institute. (November 2008).
Regional and National Summary Report of Data from the 2007-2008 Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth. Washington DC: GRI, Gallaudet University.

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

Holt, J. (1994). Classroom attributes and achievement test scores for deaf and hard of hearing students.
American Annals of the Deaf, 139, 430-437.

Jensema, C. (1978). A comment on measurement error in achievement tests for the hearing impaired.
American Annals of the Deaf, 123, 496-499.

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.

Kluwin, T. N. (1993). Cumulative effects of mainstreaming on the achievement of deaf adolescents.
Exceptional Children, 60, 73-81.

Marschark, M., Lang, H. G., & Albertini, J. A. (2002).
Educating deaf students: From research to practice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ross, M., Brackett, D., & Maxon, A. B. (1982).
Hard of hearing children in regular schools. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Semmel, M. I., & Frick, T. (1985). Learner competence in school. In M. Kaufman, J. A. Agard & M. I. Semmel (Eds.),
Mainstreaming: Learners and their environment (pp. 99-150). Cambridge: Brookline Books.

Soukup, J. H., Wehmeyer, M. L., Bashinski, S. M., & Bovaird, J. A. (2007). Classroom variables and access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities.
Exceptional Children, 74, 101-120.

Wolk, S., & Allen, T. E. (1984). A 5-year follow-up of reading-comprehension achievement of hearing-impaired students in special education programs.
Journal of Special Education, 18(2), 161-176.

JDSDE Reference

Shirin D. Antia, Patricia B. Jones, Susanne Reed, and Kathryn H. Kreimeyer (2009). Academic status and progress of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students in general education classrooms. The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 2009; Volume 14 (3) Summer 2009 pp 293-311.