College and Career Readiness: Course Taking of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Secondary School Students

By Nagle, Katherine; Newman, Lynn A. et al. | American Annals of the Deaf, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

College and Career Readiness: Course Taking of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Secondary School Students


Nagle, Katherine, Newman, Lynn A., Shaver, Debra M., Marschark, Marc, American Annals of the Deaf


Although extensive information is available on the education of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students throughout their school years and into college, far less information exists about their career and college readiness or how school experiences influence their subsequent development, growth, and success in college and the workplace (Kelly, 2015). Studies have shown that, compared with their hearing peers, DHH students frequently enter secondary school, college, and the workplace relatively unprepared for success (Kelly, 2015; Marschark, Shaver, Nagle, & Newman, 2015). In particular, DHH students' reading comprehension, math, and science skills are generally several grade levels below those of hearing students. If DHH secondary school students are lagging significantly behind hearing peers in reading, math, and science (Marschark et al., 2015; Qi & Mitchell, 2012), how college or career ready can they be?

In an effort to better understand the influence of secondary school preparation on college and career readiness, we used a national database of secondary school-age DITH students to examine how their course taking matched expectations for students in the general population and how it varied by enrollment in regular or special education settings. Clearly, other factors, such as family attitude toward education, family involvement in students' school activities, and geographic stability, also have an impact on college and career readiness (ACT, 2007). However, one of the strongest predictors of success in college and the workforce is course selection (ACT, 2004, 2006; Robbins et al., 2004). For this reason, we looked at the academic and the nonacademic course selections of DHH students. By academic courses we mean the core courses of mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, and foreign language that are taught in high school and form the content knowledge base required for success at higher levels. By nonacademic courses we mean academic discipline and self-confidence, communication skills, study skills, goal striving, and emotional control (ACT, 2007; Robbins et al., 2004), which are covered in nonacademic courses in high school.

Throughout the 20th century, high school graduates faced a fork in the road. One path led to a 4-year college, the other to an entry-level job (Spring, 1997). In the 21st-century global economy, the choices are much more complex and interconnected, and there are multiple paths, all of which require a rigorous and rich high school experience that prepares all students-not just some-for college and a career (Achieve and the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Educational Consortium, 2014; Career Readiness Partner Council, n.d.; Southern Regional Education Board, 2013).

Researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders have made numerous attempts to define what it means to be college and career ready, and recently a consensus emerged (Conforti, 2013): Being college ready means being prepared to enter and succeed in any postsecondary education or training experience that leads to a post-secondary credential (i.e., a certificate, license, or associate's or bachelor's degree). Therefore, students should have access in high school to a range of academic courses with the appropriate level of challenge and complexity (especially in literacy and numeracy) and the learning skills (e.g., high-order critical thinking, ability to write clearly and analytically, and problem-solving skills) and nonacademic skills (e.g., motivation, tenacity, knowledge of how to apply to college and obtain financial support) necessary for postsecondary success (Achieve, 2012; Conley, 2012; Southern Regional Education Board, 2013). Being career ready means possessing the academic skills that employees need to be successful and the technical skills (those necessary for a specific job function) and 21st-century employability skills (e.g., interpersonal skills, creativity and innovation, a work ethic and personal responsibility, global and social awareness) that are necessary for entry into a successful career (Achieve, 2012; Conley, 2012). …

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