Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

One Size Does Not Fit All: Individualized Instruction in a Standardized Educational System

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

One Size Does Not Fit All: Individualized Instruction in a Standardized Educational System

Article excerpt

THIS ESSAY is based on a keynote address, "A Tour of the Horizons," presented to the 2012 annual conference of the Association of College Educators/Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACE/DHH), held in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

In Greek mythology, Procrustes was a host who offered a magical one-size-fitsall bed to travelers. The problem for the unsuspecting guest was that the bed did not adjust to the traveler - the traveler had to adjust to the bed. If he was too tall, Procrustes would cut off his feet or legs; if he was too short, Procrustes would stretch him on a rack. A "Procrustean Bed," therefore, represents a disregard of individual differences. To some extent, the grisly metaphor of the Procrustean Bed applies to present-day American education, at least to the extent that, within states, individual school districts must prepare students for standardized state-level tests.

Although accommodations for a testing environment should be provided during standardized testing without prejudice and with fidelity, this is often not the case. In addition, for most deaf students, test modification is not permitted. With an increasing number of states becoming involved with the Common Core State Standards, there is the prospect of an eventual national curriculum and testing over and above the present National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Whether or not the trend toward a national curriculum is positive or negative is a moot issue. Certainly, there are countries with national curricula in which students perform well academically. To me, a standard curriculum is acceptable so long as there is flexibility to adjust to the needs of all children - in our case, those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Standardized assessment is another matter entirely. Although there is variation across states, deaf children without disabilities are required to take the tests without modification. The results often are invalid and unreliable, and underestimate the academic attainment of the test takers. Often education exhibits a Procrustean mind-set.

Although we may pay lip service to flexibility, sometimes the child is expected to adjust to the system rather than the system to the child. The results are not always pleasant, nor do they accurately reflect individual student achievement. This is of particular concern with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which takes precedence over the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), with its call for individualized education programs (IEPs).

It is always difficult to make categorical statements about the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. In addition to the demographic diversity of the American population in regard to attributes such as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location, we have factors including age of onset of a hearing loss, age at identification and intervention, extent of loss, etiology, and possible existence of additional conditions. We know that in recent years approximately 70,000 children have been identified as receiving IEPs and classified as deaf or hard of hearing and that the Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth has information on about half that number. However, the Annual Survey participants may not be completely representative of the larger group of 70,000. Also, the number of deaf and hard of hearing children without IEPs is unknown; we may speculate on their characteristics, but doing so would be purely that - speculation. Finally, a deaf child may be categorized in one of the other 12 federal disability groupings. We have wide ranges in estimates of disabilities in deaf school-age children, but no really firm data.

It seems as if our field is in a state of unprecedented change. Actually, from my perspective, this has always been the case. It is commonly assumed that we equate the past with failure, the present with change, and the future with success. For me, change is the only constant - whether for better or for worse - and we all know that not all of the changes in our field have been universally beneficial. …

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