The study identified successful students who were deaf and were receiving most of their educational services in general education settings, in order to examine factors contributing to their success. Teachers in a western state were asked to nominate students who were deaf who were in the upper elementary through high school grades and were receiving most of their educational services in general education classrooms. Qualitative procedures were used to gather information on 20 successful students who were deaf. Inquiry focused on observation of the students in general education settings and interviews to gather perceptions of (a) the successful students themselves, (b) deaf education teachers, educational interpreters, and paraprofessional note takers serving these students, (c) general education teachers working with these students, and (d) parents. The students' primary communication modes were closely divided between sign language and spoken English; communication mode did not seem to be a salient factor in success. Results of the interviews with each group, a summary of observations, and themes that emerged across groups are provided.
Public Law (PL) 94-142 changed deaf education. Prior to 1975, most students who were deaf or hard of hearing were educated in residential schools or self-contained classrooms. But the implementation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act established the right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for all students. The intent of the LRE clause of PL 94-142 was that students with disabilities would be educated alongside their chronological-age peers who did not have disabilities, while being provided with appropriate special education services (Gartner & Lipsky, 1987). Consequently, the past quarter-century has seen a significant change in service delivery models for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. This change is most evident when one considers recent estimates that on a national level, approximately 83% of students who are deaf or hard of hearing are served, at least part-time, in general education classrooms (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).
Although it is widely thought that education in the general education setting is not appropriate or desired for all students who are deaf or hard of hearing, several trends and actions suggest that the majority of such students will continue to receive educational services in general education settings in the future:
* newborn hearing screening programs, early intervention, and the related positive effects on the development of language skills (Yoshinaga-Itano, Sedey, Coulter, & Mehl, 1998)
* the decreasing incidence of severe-- to-profound deafness (Holden-Pitt & Diaz, 1998)
* the dosing of several state schools for the Deaf
* the increase in the number of children receiving cochlear implants (Pisoni, Cleary, Geers, & Tobey, 1999)
* federal legislation (the Individuals With Disabilities Act Amendments of 1997, PL 105-17) containing several provisions directed at providing greater access to the general education curriculum to students with disabilities.
Given the changes that have occurred as a result of legislation; trends in medical treatment, education, and public policy; and the challenges inherent in providing quality educational programs in general education settings for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, a need exists to identify ways to create general education environments where students who are deaf or hard of hearing can learn and socialize while achieving their maximum potential. With that purpose in mind, we undertook to identify successful students who were deaf or hard of hearing and were receiving the majority of their educational services in general education settings, so that we might examine the factors contributing to their success.
We acquired a mailing list of teachers of students who were deaf or hard of hearing from the department of education in a western state. …