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The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus
Chapter 5
What Parents Should Know:
The Educational System*

Cheryl DeConde Johnson, Ed. D.

Dr. Johnson is currently a supervisor and consultant with the Colorado Department of Education where her responsibilities include services to students with hearing disabilities. She provides technical assistance and leadership for hearing loss education, educational interpreting, and educational audiology services statewide. Prior to employment at the Department of Education, she worked for 22 years as an educational audiologist and hearing consultant in the Greeley-Evans School District 6 in Greeley, Colorado as well as a Colorado Hearing Resource Coordinator (CO-Hear) and parent facilitator for the Colorado Home Intervention Program (CHIP) for D/HH. Dr. Johnson’s special interests include childhood auditory function and its associated implications, management of children with hearing loss in education settings, and accountability in hearing loss education. She is a co-author of the Educational Audiology Handbook, as well as numerous other articles and chapters. She consults and frequently presents nationally and internationally on topics related to reform of education for children with hearing and educational audiology. Dr. Johnson also maintains adjunct faculty appointments with the University of Colorado and Central Michigan University. Her inspiration and work continues to be influenced by her daughter who was born with hearing loss as a result of Rubella.

No Child Left Behind

While IDEA provides procedural protections, it does not directly assure quality education programs. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed by Congress to increase accountability of school districts for student achievement. These concepts are important because they impact all students regardless of whether they are in special education or not. Furthermore, most students with hearing loss receive the majority of their education in the general education classroom. Some of the most noteworthy provisions of NCLB and the implications for students with hearing loss include the following:

1. Accountability for results: all children, including those with hearing loss, are included in the accountability equation. Student progress and achievement is measured by standardized tests for every child. Data from the annual assessments must be reported in annual report cards on school performance and on statewide progress. The report cards provide the parents and community information about the quality of schools, the qualifications of teachers, and progress in key subject areas. Data must be analyzed according to race, gender, disabilities and other criteria to demonstrate progress that’s being made to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and other student groups

Implications for students with hearing loss:

The accountability provision under NCLB has become a major factor toward improving achievement outcomes for students with hearing loss. For the first time, these students are being held to the same standard as their hearing peers. The implications are that these students must be taught using the same standards as hearing children and that they must have access to the general education curriculum where these standards are taught. Access to the curriculum requires schools to provide the necessary supports that provide students with hearing loss accessibility. These include appropriate amplification and assistive technologies, acoustically and visually appropriate classrooms, qualified educational interpreters, note-taking services and other common accommodations utilized by students with hearing loss.

Another implication of NCLB has been the analysis of performance data on statewide assessments. The requirement to look specifically at assessment data for students with hearing disabilities as compared to their hearing peers has clearly identified the gap in achievement between these groups. This process has forced schools to begin a critical analysis of practices used with children with hearing loss.

2. Ensuring that every child can read. The federal government’s Reading First initiative is the basis for this provision. This initiative’s foundation is the use of scientifically proven methods of reading instruction.

Implications for students with hearing loss:

While the Reading First initiative is based on scientifically proven methods, these methods may not be proven or appropriate for children with hearing loss. Several components of the reading program are auditory—based, clearly a disadvantage to some children with hearing loss.

3. Strengthening teacher quality. This part of NCLB requires teachers and other support staff in every public school classroom to be “highly qualified.” With shortages increasing in some special education areas, the reality of the provision makes it even more challenging. This law requires all special education teachers at the secondary level to have the content specialization in the areas where they are the student’s primary subject matter teacher (e.g., math, English, social studies, science).

Implications for students with hearing loss:

Students with hearing loss are benefiting from this highly qualified provision. The most impact is seen at the secondary content level described above and with the qualifications of educational interpreters. For content areas, teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing are now required to have teaching endorsements or special training in the content areas where they provide direct instruction. Since these provisions also affect related service providers, states are now implementing minimum standards for educational interpreters. . .