SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 89

Curriculum: Thirty Years Later Blackburn Fast forward ten years from the paper’s distribution, Sam Supalla along with a small group of parents with deaf children, decided to take the first step to unlock the curriculum by establishing a charter school in Tucson, Arizona that fully embraced the paper’s model program. This charter school implemented the first and only school with a UDL approach and is described in; Supalla, Wix & McKee (2001); Supalla & Blackburn (2003); Supalla (2017); and Supalla & Byrne (2018). Along with an apt description of the charter school’s reading instruction model, Supalla & Byrne (2018) challenge us to re-define the term curriculum for deaf students. When Unlocking was first distributed and still today, deaf educators define the curriculum as a place where deaf students need only gain entry or access, in order to communicate and exchange information. Supalla & Byrne (2018) explain that the curriculum deaf educators need to unlock for their students are grade-level academic standards and a plan for learning. If we define the curriculum for deaf students as academic learning standards to achieve, we can more readily see what needs to be unlocked and how to do so. The authors of Unlocking took the first, bold step to assert that deaf students did not have even basic, unhindered access to communication in their classroom. Much worse, Supalla & Byrne (2018) describe a learning experience where deaf students are required to decipher English print that contains embedded phonemic sounds that the students do not hear, and/or process linguistically. In the name of “access,” deaf educators have created work-around arguments for how to unlock sound-based learning standards in order to teach deaf students how to hear, rather than teach them how to read. For example, consider this First Grade learning standards from the Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Preparing America’s students for success,” n.d.): Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes). Special education experts would recommend removal of this type of reading standard because it is considered unattainable by some deaf students due to the severity of their hearing loss. However, academic standards related to learning to read are organized and scaffolded in such a way that if certain foundational standards are removed, the student will be denied sufficient information to unlock or achieve the particular end goal of that learning standard. Supalla & Byrne (2018) explain that a UDL approach coupled with ASL Gloss as an intermediary writing system easily solves this conundrum for deaf students and their teachers. ASL simply needs to be recognized and addressed as an academic language at local, state and national levels. In this regard, the current academic standards as demonstrated above (i.e., the locked curriculum), can be translated to represent a UDL that complies with any language modality, so the barrier of sound embedded in spoken language text can be addressed and remediated. Johnson, Liddell & Erting (1989) concluded their Unlocking paper with fair warning that changes will not be easy, and they were correct. However, it is critical that we do not squander another 30 years unpacking and debating how to unlock the curriculum for deaf students when we have the key, signed language, in hand. ASL Gloss and related literacy-learning tools align easily with state and national learning standards. Unlocking’s recommended model program and guiding principles for success have been implemented and can be reduplicated. To proceed without acknowledging the language and resources we have available to us is irresponsible. I will conclude with the encouragement of Supalla & Byrne (2018): SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 89