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Gallaudet Univeristy
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Public Input

Why does the Clerc Center collect public input?
The Clerc Center is charged by the Congress of the United States "to establish and publish priorities for research, development, and demonstration through a process that allows public input" (Education of the Deaf Act Amendments of 2008).

How has the Clerc Center reached out to the public?
Since 1994, the Clerc Center has devoted resources toward gathering input from its constituencies, including center/residential schools for the deaf, day schools for the deaf, mainstream school programs with deaf and hard of hearing students, public elementary/secondary education programs, parents of deaf and hard of hearing students, university training programs, members of the deaf community, and alumni of KDES and MSSD. Examples of outreach include holding strategic planning meetings with stakeholders, contacting superintendents of schools for the deaf, hosting meetings of Clerc Center parents, feedback from national advisory groups, and collecting critical needs input at conferences and workshops.

How has the Clerc Center used public input to set priorities?
The Clerc Center held a Strategic Planning Summit from February 2-4, 2009. At the Summit, a group of 24 diverse stakeholders representing parents, mainstream programs, schools for the deaf, teacher preparation programs, the Clerc Center, and other groups met to develop Clerc Center goals and objectives that address the issues raised through the public input process.

The group achieved consensus on three goal areas:

  1. Raising the achievement of deaf students
  2. Identifying and sharing strategies to support deaf students with disabilities 
  3. Supporting early involvement of families with deaf children

This consensus led to the development of the Clerc Center strategic plan.

What projects is the Clerc Center planning based on public input?
Based on the strategic plan that grew out of public input, the Clerc Center is planning projects in the following priority areas:

These projects and plans respond to public input in the following ways:

Student Academic Achievement

  1. Develop and implement a standards-based curriculum in language arts, math, social studies, and science that includes unit summaries and plans, textbooks, related resources, and initial differentiation strategies.
  2. Establish baseline student achievement data for grades three through eight and grade ten in the areas of language arts, math, and science. Once established, set target performance levels in accordance with its Adequate Yearly Performance model.
  3. Develop a small-school accountability model to meet Clerc Center reporting requirements.

The Clerc Center has determined that the state standards established by Ohio are appropriate for its own use and is working to bring KDES and MSSD measures and assessments in line with Ohio measures and assessments.

Public input supports this plan. Members of the public expect the Clerc Center to serve as a leader and a coordinator of efforts. Since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is currently driving education reform, it is appropriate that the Clerc Center participate in the NCLB accountability system. Stakeholders have identified the need to implement a research-based curriculum. They have also discussed the need for the Clerc Center to be linked with mainstream programs since that is where most deaf and hard of hearing students are served.

Project: Lead a collaborative effort with identified experts to develop national standards for American Sign Language (ASL) from birth through twelfth grade.

The need to develop common ASL standards was a common theme identified throughout the public input process. Stakeholders mentioned the need for Clerc Center leadership in language planning, for valid and reliable assessment tools for deaf and hard of hearing children, and for the development of age-appropriate strategies and materials. This includes assessment tools and protocols for early language planning and literacy; an ASL curriculum; and ASL materials, standards, and assessments.

Evidence-based Strategies and Resources for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students with Disabilities
Project: Select and disseminate at least five evidence-based instructional strategies, curriculum, and materials for deaf and hard of hearing students with disabilities from schools and programs around the country.

The need to identify and share resources for deaf and hard of hearing students with disabilities was identified in several public input forums. This priority also responds to the Clerc Center's Education of the Deaf Act mandate to address the needs of deaf students with disabilities.

Early and Ongoing Intervention to Support Linguistic Competence
Project: Use research to inform, practice, identify, and disseminate evidence-based strategies for early intervention service delivery.

Public input has responded to the proliferation of early hearing detection and intervention (EHDI) systems by recognizing the need to strengthen the intervention component of it. Stakeholders have emphasized early intervention as a factor leading to linguistic and academic success. It was pointed out that often deaf students do not arrive in deaf schools until after they have "failed" in public schools. Quality early intervention is one component that helps prevent such failure. Constituents stressed the need for information about communication strategies and modality choices and for qualified early intervention professionals who "know deafness." Members of the public recommended that the Clerc Center develop standards for what early intervention service providers for deaf children need to know, and to develop materials for providers and for training. Participants suggested that the Clerc Center develop a parent packet on early intervention resources. The need for support for literacy through early intervention was mentioned.

Project: Identify and disseminate at least five resources for service providers and five resources for families that support the development of linguistic competence for deaf and hard of hearing students from birth through 21 years of age.

Public input emphasized the need for families to receive support so that they are better able to help their children acquire language. Meeting attendees highlighted the need for information for families, such as that relating to communication. In places where they exist, some approaches that have been helpful are: family sign language programs, shared reading programs, parent-infant programs, and deaf mentor programs. Stakeholders talked about the need for families to learn how to create a language-rich environment at home and how to monitor their children's language development. Participants suggested development of a parent toolkit/resource packet as well as ASL materials for parents and children. Individuals also noted the importance of a resource kit for families and information on diverse cultural views of deafness. Another point mentioned was the importance of ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing children are fully included in family life.

What's next in the public input process?
A primary goal of redesigning the Clerc Center's public input process is to have it serve as a central component of the institutional planning, priority-setting, development, and dissemination system currently in development.

Working with a systems-design consultant, the Clerc Center developed its proposed public input process based on the work of Alexander Christakis and his colleagues. They designed processes for understanding and responding to complex problems and situations by harnessing the collective wisdom of people who are stakeholders in the situation itself. (Christakis, 2004; Christakis & Bausch, 2006)

The public input process will serve two primary functions. It will:

  1. Identify critical needs among constituents that inform research and development priorities
  2. Maintain ongoing public engagement throughout the project development cycle for products, services, and research identified to address institutional priorities

The public input process is designed to intentionally seek the perspective of educators and families of students from traditionally underserved groups and from the range of educational environments in which deaf and hard of hearing students are enrolled.

The Clerc Center anticipates initial implementation of the public input process in 2010 Critical needs data gathered during the strategic plan cycle, 2010-2012, will serve as a basis for priority setting when the Clerc Center's next strategic planning cycle commences in 2013.

For more information about the Clerc Center's public input process, contact clerc.input@gallaudet.edu.

Christakis, A. N. (2004). Wisdom of the people. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 21, 479-488.

Christakis, A. N., & Bausch, K. C. (2006). How people harness their collective wisdom and power to construct the future in co-laboratories of democracy. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.