National Profile of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in Special Education from Weighted Survey Results

By Mitchell, Ross E. | American Annals of the Deaf, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

National Profile of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in Special Education from Weighted Survey Results


Mitchell, Ross E., American Annals of the Deaf


DATA FROM the 1999-2000 Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth (GRI Annual Survey; Gallaudet Research Institute, 2000) are systematically compared with those summarized by the U.S. Department of Education (2001, 2002) in the Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to estimate the degree to which findings based on the GRI Annual Survey sample are likely to be representative of the population of deaf and hard of hearing children and youth served under IDEA. An appropriate weighting system is then applied to provide more nationally representative estimates of the characteristics of deaf and hard of hearing students served under IDEA and, more important, to provide a better national description of these students and the services they receive than would otherwise be available.

In the United States, deaf and hard of hearing students are experiencing changes across a wide range of contexts. For example, the political and educational context now demands that there be "no child left behind" by public school systems; this includes all students regardless of race or ethnicity, English-language proficiency, economic disadvantage, or disability status (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001;see20U.S.C. § 6311.b.2.c.v.II, 2002). At the same time, the social and medical contexts of childhood hearing loss are being transformed by a dramatic expansion of universal newborn hearing screening and early childhood cochlear implantation (see, e.g., Cone-Wesson, 2003; Spencer & Marschark, 2003). Given all that, it is time to revisit what is known about the population of deaf and hard of hearing students and the circumstances of their schooling, and how this knowledge is obtained.

The most comprehensive national report available to date summarizing demographic and program services data for special education, the federal child count published in the Twenty-Fourth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (hereafter, IDEA Child Count; U.S. Department of Education, 2002), actually provides only modest demographic detail and limited specifics about program services, and only for children at least 6 years of age. Other sources must be consulted if one is to obtain detailed descriptions of the population of students with disabilities enumerated in the IDEA Child Count, especially since it is compiled entirely from aggregated state-level reports and cannot be subjected to alternative or disaggregated analyses. However, to get a nationally representative picture, rather than one that is population based, one must consult sample-based studies. Ideally, samples would be drawn so that generalizations to the larger population would not be problematic, but this rarely happens. Given that, an explicit effort must be made to directly relate sample-based findings to the statistics reported annually to Congress by the U.S. Department of Education. Otherwise, the extent of bias or lack of generalizability of findings from any particular study will simply diminish or, worse yet, distort the importance of the knowledge base built on sample-based research.

In the present study, in order to respond to the need for updated and detailed information about students who are deaf or hard of hearing, a straightforward method for improving the generalizability of surveys of students in special education is applied to data from the Gallaudet Research Institute's more detailed Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth (hereafter, GRI Annual Survey; Gallaudet Research Institute, 2000). The GRI Annual Survey, which is summarized for national consumption in reports posted on the World Wide Web (see, e.g., Gallaudet Research Institute, 2001, 2002, 2003), samples the population receiving IDEA-related services. It can therefore be used in making estimates concerning information beyond what is in the IDEA Child Count. …

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