Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students' Through-the-Air English Skills: A Review of Formal Assessments

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students' Through-the-Air English Skills: A Review of Formal Assessments

Article excerpt

Strong correlations exist between signed and/or spoken English and the literacy skills of deaf and hard of hearing students. Assessments that are both valid and reliable are key for researchers and practitioners investigating the signed and/or spoken English skills of signing populations. The authors conducted a literature review to explore which tests researchers are currently using, how they administer the tests, and how reliability and validity are maintained. It was found that, overall, researchers working with this population use the same tests of English employed by practitioners working with hearing students (i.e., the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test, and Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals). There is a disconnect between what is being used in research with deaf and hard of hearing students and what is being used in practice with them. Implications for practice are discussed.

Literacy outcomes for students who are deaf or hard of hearing have been consistently poor (S. Qi & Mitchell, 2012; Traxler, 2000). One cause of poor literacy outcomes is delays in the development of language, whether signed or spoken (R Spencer & Marschark, 2010). The fact is that proficient through-theair1 English skills are a predictor of proficient print literacy skills for learners who are deaf or hard of hearing (Geers & Moog, 1989; Geers, Tobey, Moog, & Brenner, 2008; Goldin-Meadow & Mayberry, 2001; Mayer, 2007,2009; Mayer & Akamatsu, 2000; Mayer & Leigh, 2010; Mayer & Trezek, 2011; Mayer & Wells, 1996; Moores & Sweet, 1990; Nielsen, Luetke, & Stryker, 2011; Paul, 2003; Perfetti & Sandak, 2000). Even children with mild hearing loss struggle to develop language (Marschark et al., 2009). Having limited vocabularies compared to their hearing peers (Connor, Heiber, Arts, & Zwolan, 2000), deaf and hard of hearing students whose first language is American Sign Language (ASL) often struggle with language development.

For deaf and hard of hearing students, underdeveloped language skills can be an immense obstacle to acquiring English literacy skills. ASL does not have a written form, and for such students who do not benefit from amplification, access to spoken English is often limited. As a result, these students are essentially required to learn how to read and write in English as they learn the language (Marschark & Harris, 1996; Mayer & Trezek, 2011; Paul, 2003; Perfetti & Sandak, 2000). Not having a printed form of ASL, and/or not having full face-to-face access to the phonemes, morphemes, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics of English, inevitably delays the acquisition of print literacy and consequently creates a gap in academic achievement (Mars - chark & Harris, 1996; Marschark, Spencer, Adams, & Sapere, 2011; McGuiness, 2004,2005; Perfetti & Sandak, 2000). In other words, academic achievement gaps are cyclically and simultaneously created by delay of a first language, delay of acquisition of print literacy, and an overall lack of proficiency in English skills at the conversational and academic levels (Luckner & Handley, 2008; Mayer, 2009; Mayer & Leigh, 2010).

Therefore, finding reliable tools to measure the progress of the throughthe-air English language development of deaf and hard of hearing students should be a priority for teachers, clinicians, and researchers (Schick, 1997). Although dozens of assessments are available (see Easterbrooks & Baker, 2002), there is little clarity as to how these assessments are being administered to deaf and hard of hearing students who require access to a visual-manual language (i.e., children placed in Total Communication or bilingual/bicultural programs). Moreover, most of these assessments have been normed on typically developing hearing children using spoken English. If these assessments are being administered by means of some sort of English-based sign, there may be an important yet unknown impact on the validity and reliability of these assessments (Moores, 2006/2007). …

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