Deaf and hard of hearing students have, on average, lower academic achievement than heating students. The standardized achievement scores of deaf and hard of hearing students, for example, are significantly below those of heating students, particularly in mathematics and English (Allen, 1986). In examining the 1974 norming of the sixth edition of the Stanford Achievement Test and the 1983 norming of the seventh edition, both of which included representative samples of deaf and hard of hearing students, Allen (1986) found that these students lag behind their hearing counterparts in reading and mathematics. The deficit was more pronounced in reading comprehension than in mathematics computation. In addition, studies show that deaf youth graduate with diplomas from high schools at rates considerably lower than their heating peers (Schildroth, Rawlings, & Allen, 1991). According to a 1989 study, of deaf students in transition from school to work conducted by the Center of Assessment and Demographic Studies at Gallaudet University, only about 50 percent of the deaf students exiting high school graduated with a diploma (Allen, Rawlings, & Schildroth, 1989). In contrast, census data for the general population for the same year show a graduation rate of 81 percent (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997). In addition, a considerable number of deaf students are still graduating from high schools throughout the nation with a third- to fourth-grade reading level (Bowe, 1991). The Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Heating Children and Youth, conducted by the Center for Assessment and Demographic Studies, found that only one-fourth of deaf students who enter postsecondary institutions read at fifth-grade level or above (Allen, 1994). Thus, even those deaf students who pursue higher education do so with very limited skills.
A major obstacle to employment for many deaf and hard of hearing adolescents is their lower level of English literacy and numeracy compared to hearing peers. Poor English skills may well be the most serious obstacle to both initial employment and future advancement in the changing workforce. Although more jobs are opening up today than ever before, these jobs require higher levels of English literacy and numeracy than in the past (Silvestri & Lukasiewicz, 1989).
Managers interviewed about their workers' skills stated that basic academic skills in mathematics and English are needed for the entry-level jobs they seek to fill. Some managers noted that, although academic skills are not needed in their entry-level jobs, these skills are needed for higher jobs in their companies into which entry-level workers can move. Employers noted that upword movement is possible from entry-level jobs only if workers posses adequate basic skills at the time of entry (Rosenbaum & Binder, 1997).
Studies have consistently found relationships between academic achievement and productivity. Cognitive ability has been found to be the strongest predictor of on-the-job performance in many occupations (Hunter & Hunter, 1984). There is also an association between test scores and performance (Barrett & Depinet, 1991; Bishop, 1993; National Research Council, 1989) and between course work (and academic skills) and wages and employment (Cameron & Heckman, 1993; Daymont & Rumberger, 1982; Kang & Bishop, 1986; Murnane, Willet, & Levy, 1995). One study found that, although grades in school did not improve the wages of new high school graduates immediately after graduation, they had a strong payoff for these graduates' earnings 10 years later (Rosenbaum & Roy, 1996). Even more relevant to our study are the consistent findings that educational attainment is positively associated with earnings; earnings increase as one moves up the degree ladder (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991). Moreover, even within the same levels of educational attainment, literacy level is positively associated with higher wages and a reduced likelihood of being unemployed (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996). …