SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 92

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. language acquisition. Thus, the parents and siblings of deaf children seldom have the communication skills or the knowledge and experience required to provide these children with an accessible context for the acquisition of either a natural language or the cultural understandings and experiences available to hearing children. Thus, when a deaf child of hearing parents enters elementary school, that child is typically already well behind children with normal hearing in such critical areas as linguistic proficiency (in either spoken English or in a signed language), factual knowledge about the world, and social adjustment. Over the subsequent years, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on such a child's education. The money pays for teachers with special training in the education of deaf children, audiological services, technological devices to assist hearing, speech teachers, and the latest computer hardware and software. Virtually all of this effort is designed to help children acquire English through the production and understanding of sounds. As the years progress, and in spite of this investment, deaf children fall behind hearing children of the same age at an increasing rate each year. When it is time to graduate from high school, the average deaf child has grown into a young adult whose ability in most school subjects is grossly deficient. Statistics gathered periodically by the Center for Assessment and Demographic Studies at Gallaudet University show that the average performance of a deaf high school graduate is far below the average performance of hearing high school graduates, especially in those areas that depend on comprehension of English speech or text. In spite of several decades of concentrated efforts to improve the figures, the average reading level of deaf high school graduates remains at roughly the third or fourth grade equivalent, and average performance on mathematics computation is below the seventh grade equivalent (Allen, 1986, pp. 164-5). The issue has recently been brought to the attention of educators of deaf children by Paul (1988, p. 3): Since the 1970's, most deaf students have been educated in Total Communication programs in which some form of signing and speech is used simultaneously for communication and instructional purposes. Despite improvement in the development of tests, early amplification, and the implementation of early intervention or preschool programs, most students are still functionally illiterate upon graduation from high school. The simple averages reflected in these comments point to a serious problem with the system. But more disturbing is the narrowness of the range in achievement scores. Even the best deaf students graduating from high school (including those who are less than profoundly deaf) demonstrate depressed achievement scores in comparison to their hearing peers. A 1988 survey of achievement of entering freshmen at Gallaudet University demonstrates this point. Gallaudet, a university specifically for deaf students, endeavors to attract and accept only the most qualified students in the United States. A summary of the achievement scores of the entering freshman class of 1988 shows that a grade equivalent of 10.4 in reading puts a student in the 98th percentile of all deaf students in the United States. Similarly, a grade equivalent of 7.8 in "language" (English grammar) falls into the 93rd percentile (Goodstein, 1988). Thus, even the highest levels of SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 92