Preparing Future Teachers and Doctoral-Level Leaders in Deaf Education: Meeting the Challenge

Article excerpt

THE DEAF EDUCATION PROFESSION faces a critical juncture. First, the 2006 leadership crisis that swept deaf education's flagship institution-Gallaudet University-will propel professionals to think deeply about promoting diversity, equity, and access in deaf education teacher and leadership preparation programs. Second, personnel shortages require attention: Teacher and leadership voids in university and K-12 programs loom if training efforts are not increased. Teaching and leadership needs center on three challenges: (a) understanding the changing demographic composition of the student, teacher, and leadership populations; (b) developing an evolving curriculum founded on research-based practices; (c) continuing to enlarge the knowledge base through applied research in the social sciences. Two case studies examine teacher training and leadership programs at universities that address these challenges. The importance of workplace deaf-hearing bicultural teams is examined. Implications for the preparation of teacher and leadership personnel in deaf education are discussed.

For Deaf Education, a Critical Juncture

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.

-THEODORE M. HESBURGH

To lead people, walk behind them.

-LAO-TZU

The profession of deaf education is at a critical juncture in the United States. For one, the 2006 leadership crisis that swept deaf education's flagship institution-Gallaudet University-will propel professionals to think deeply about promoting diversity, equity, and access in deaf education teacher and leadership preparation programs. Second, personnel shortages must be addressed: A teacher and leadership void in university and K-12 programs will occur if training efforts are not increased. In fact, in the next decade, a third of the teaching and administration workforce will reach retirement age (Tucker & Fischgrund, 2001). Teacher shortages and teacher retirements are increasing at a time when young people are attracted to higher-paying careers in computers, business, law, and elsewhere. There are increasing numbers of Hispanic and Asian American deaf students, with a leveling off of numbers of African American deaf students, and these student demographics do not match the teacher and leadership demographics. Standards met through competency testing for teacher certification through the No Child Left Behind legislation are barriers for minority, deaf, and minority-deaf applicants, who often do not do well on standardized tests (Mounty & Martin, 2005). Furthermore, the political climate following 9/11 has been one of a unified nationalism rather than a focus on multiculturalism. There also have been many attacks on affirmative action and diversity programs in higher education, with resulting legislation banning the use of race or ethnicity as a factor in higher education admissions (Chang, Witt, Jones, & Hakuta, 2003).1

A disturbing trend is that program directors are opening and reopening unsuccessful searches for qualified leaders and are hiring teachers and superintendents with no experience with deaf and hard of hearing students (Tucker & Fischgrund, 2001). (In the present article, we use the term deaf and hard of hearing to represent students who are enrolled in special education classes and who have a hearing loss ranging from moderate to profound. Hearing loss occurs on a continuum, and many of these students will use a sign language as a primary or secondary means of communication.)

Many universities are not keeping pace in the training of additional teachers, administrators, and university faculty in deaf education, either in numbers or in diversity of student backgrounds (LaSasso & Wilson, 2000). This trend will negatively affect quality of services. If competently trained professionals are not made available, then the complex psychological, socioemotional, linguistic, and cultural needs of deaf and hard of hearing students will not be met. …