American Sign Language—moving towards a national standardImagine you are a teacher with a deaf student in your classroom that uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. You recognize that it is important to assess all the expressive and written language skills a student uses, but how do you evaluate performance in ASL? For teachers working with deaf and hard of hearing students, there has never been a way to formally evaluate ASL skills, and plan instruction accordingly.
In early 2011, recognizing the need to for of such an evaluation tool, the Clerc Center has awarded a two-year contract to a team composed of university-based researchers renowned for their expertise in deaf education, language and literacy development, and ASL assessment; as well administrators, teachers, and specialists at three elementary and secondary schools for the deaf. The coalition team members come from Boston University; University of Manitoba; University of California, San Diego; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; California School for the Deaf-Riverside; Indiana School for the Deaf in Indianapolis, Indiana; and The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Massachusetts.
The team has already drafted a synthesis of ASL research and a framework with the proposed standards, strands, and benchmarks of what students are expected to learn by the time they graduate. The standards and benchmarks will go through a multi-phase review process involving linguists, educators, other professionals, and members of the public. After the literature review and proposed framework is approved by the Clerc Center, the next phase is the development of ASL Content Standards K-12. Researchers and school leaders of three select schools, the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, the Indiana School for the Deaf, and The Learning Center in Massachusetts, will be working with teachers to apply the proposed standards in practice and revise accordingly. There will be a feedback group consisting of teachers and educators. The Clerc Center has set a target date of early 2013 for nationwide dissemination of the standards.