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FAQ: ASL Content Standards, K-12

Why do we need American Sign Language (ASL) content standards? How will they address the challenges in today's deaf education?

Research has shown that bilingual learners have more advantages in life, and deaf students learn best in a linguistically and visually rich educational environment; this includes ASL and English bilingual education. Currently there are no formally documented ASL content standards in any state. By taking this initiative to have the ASL content standards developed, the Clerc Center hopes to encourage educators to take an intensive look at the linguistic development of their students to ensure that they are developing appropriately and attaining language development benchmarks.

The purpose of the ASL content standards will be to guide instruction from K-12 so that L1 ASL students will progress through their linguistic development at the appropriate time in order to ensure maximum use of L1 language acquisition and experience.

The ASL content standards are necessary to give today's educators realistic benchmarks and grade-level indicators of student development in ASL. This is important because without the standards, each educator has a different evaluation tool. This does not reflect the norm in education today which is focused on standards and evidence-based reporting.

How are the ASL content standards being developed?

The ASL content standards are being developed based on current research combining the latest understanding of ASL linguistics and current trends in standards-based education. The Clerc Center is taking the lead in providing guidance and support to a team of highly qualified experts as they develop, revise, and implement ASL content standards in identified schools for the deaf. There are several steps that the development team will take:

  •  Stage 1: The ASL Content Standards Development Team will submit a synthesis review and proposed framework in late 2011. A team of reviewers with expertise in the area of ASL linguistics and research and child development will complete their review and validation by January 2012.
  • Stage 2: The ASL Content Standards Development Team will complete a first draft of the ASL content standards and benchmarks by June 2012.  Once the draft is ready for review in early 2013, a feedback group consisting of select ASL teachers, ASL specialists, and other identified professionals will complete a structured review.
  • Stage 3: In mid 2013, the ASL content standards and benchmarks will be available for public review and comment.
  •  Stage 4: A validation team consisting of experts in the area of ASL linguistics and research will complete a final review and validation of the standards and benchmarks in relation to the research synthesis during the fall of 2013.

Anticipated dissemination of the ASL Content Standards and Benchmarks is late 2013. 

Who are the ASL content standards for? How can they be used with students with diverse abilities?

The ASL content standards are being developed for use with deaf students who are L1 and visual learners. With high standards for what all deaf students of diverse abilities should know and do, teachers of deaf students will align instructional plans and assessments to gauge student progress.

What is the difference between an ASL curriculum and ASL content standards?

A curriculum is the set of courses, and their contents, offered at a school. It is prescriptive and is based on a more general syllabus that merely specifies what topics must be understood and to what level to achieve a particular grade or standard. As an idea, "curriculum" refers to the specific courses and experiences through which deaf students grow to become well-adjusted adults who thrive in life after school. It consists of a cumulative sequence of skills at different grade levels and expanded-on benchmarks in detail. It includes subjects taught, or elements of a subject that is taught, at an educational institution or the topics taught within a subject. (Reference: http://www.corestandards.org/frequently-asked-questions.) An ASL curriculum is a set of courses, and their contents, offered at schools that support bilingual education.

The ASL content standards, which can be incorporated into the curriculum, will state clear and expected grade-level goals for students. They will also have established benchmarks that will help teachers ensure that their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in interacting with individuals in postsecondary programs and in the workforce in the future.

After the ASL content standards are disseminated, what is next?

The Clerc Center anticipates disseminating the ASL content standards in 2013. Decisions and plans will need to be made for subsequent work. There will be a need to address targeted curriculum development, materials, and resources according to benchmarks and grade-level indicators with collaborative efforts among educational programs and professional organizations that serve deaf students.

Will there be an ASL version of the ASL content standards?

As of now, there are no plans for an ASL version of the ASL content standards. It is possible that once the final product is completed the content standards may be documented in ASL.

Who is leading the ASL content standards work?

The ASL Content Standards Development Team is being led by Dr. David Geeslin and a group of research and school-based teams. See more information about the group and the ASL content standards action plan here.

The ASL content standards work is supported by the Clerc Center Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives for 2009-2012.

Goal One: Students will reach their full potential linguistically and academically from birth through 21 years of age.

Objective 2: The Clerc Center will lead a collaborative effort with identified experts to develop standards for ASL from kindergarten through twelfth grade by 2012.

Learn more about Clerc Center goals and objectives for 2009-2012.

Will there be resources provided to support implementation of the ASL content standards?

The focus of this work is to develop ASL content standards for grades K-12. However, many schools and programs serving deaf students have been collaborating in developing and sharing ASL activities, materials, and resources. It is our hope that there will be an increased interest in this collaborative effort after the ASL content standards are disseminated.

Are all schools and programs serving deaf students required to incorporate the ASL content standards into their curricula?

The ASL content standards are being established to provide the "best practices" approach to the development of students' language. This resource will be available to schools and programs serving deaf students throughout the nation. While these schools and programs are not required to incorporate the ASL content standards, we do hope that they will be adopted and incorporated into the curriculum of every school that has L1 ASL learners.