Education Executive - Summer 2012 - (Page 110)
MARYLAND SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF
Free of Restrictions
The Maryland School for the Deaf has built an educational haven where students are challenged and nurtured to become their best selves.
he period between 1840 to 1880 is known as this nation’s Golden Age for Deaf Education. American Sign Language (ASL) began to flourish and Washington, D.C.’s, Gallaudet University became the first accredited institution in the United States to offer college degrees to deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Even Alexander Graham Bell, whose mother was hard of hearing, began promoting deaf education and “visible language” during this time. In 1868, the state of Maryland added its own contribution to the legacy of education for the deaf in America with the founding of the Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD).
Today, the state operated public school continues its legacy of providing a robust education centered on preparing its students for success in both the deaf and hearing communities, or as its new motto states, to engage, challenge and achieve. “We are a school, and academic instruction is our business,” Superintendent James E. Tucker says. “Which means that just like any other school we keep up with curriculum changes and we keep up with the technologies of today. We also stay up-to-date with the courses that we offer, especially when it comes to the electives that we have.” As a public school – free to Maryland residents and tuitionbased for out-of-state students – MSD adheres to statewide curriculum, but as a school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, it has also developed a program to best serve the unique needs of its student population while keeping in line with the federal’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Passed in 1975, the act lays out guidelines to developing Individual Education Plans (IEP) to meet each student’s particular needs as well as providing the Least Restricting Environment (LRE), to allow the students to flourish in all aspects of school life. Tucker calls IDEA a paradoxical law. The IEP places an emphasis on the child’s individual needs while the LRE provision pushes toward having all disabled children placed into local area schools, “So you have two parts of the law that are in conflict with each other,” he says.
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“The least restrictive environment – that provision is not a friendly tool for deaf students and hard-of-hearing students,” Tucker continues. “That part of the law says that it’s best to mainstream these students into local area schools, and that’s just not the best place for many deaf and hard of hearing students. Often, they are put into local schools and stuck with a sign language interpreter all day. That’s not the least restrictive, that’s actually the most restrictive environment for that child and the LRE is mistakenly applied to deaf and hard-of-hearing children all over the country, including some places in Maryland. So it’s definitely a challenge because the kids often don’t thrive within the local schools because the teachers are not qualified to teach deaf children and even the better interpreters will interpret less than 50 percent of what’s being said in a spoken classroom.”
Melding Two Worlds
At MSD, however, students learn to be bilingual in spoken and written English as well as ASL, allowing them to thrive in both worlds. Every MSD teacher is bilingual. “Sign language is [our students’] natural language and English is the language of our commerce,” Tucker says. “So we teach their first language but also reading and writing and listening to English, as well. And often, we will explain concepts in sign language and make the transfer into English.” With that serving as part of the school’s educational foundation, MSD is moving along with the state of Maryland to adopt nationwide best practices in teaching and curriculum.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Executive - Summer 2012
Education Executive - Summer 2012
Can't Live Without It
Broadening the Student Experience
Upgrading Facilities on Tight Budgets
Haylor, Freyer & Coon ◆ N.Y.
Anne Arundel Community College ◆ MD
Humber College ◆ Ont.
Grove City College ◆ PA
Broome Community College ◆ N.Y.
Coastal Carolina University ◆ S.C.
Cuyahoga Community College ◆ Ohio
Ottawa University ◆ Kan.
Brazosport College ◆ Texas
Idaho State University ◆ Idaho
Hillsborough Community College ◆ Fla.
Post University ◆ Conn.
Union College ◆ N.Y.
University of New Mexico ◆ N.M.
Naperville School District 203 ◆ Ill.
Santa Barbara Unified School District ◆ Calif.
Acadia Parish School Board ◆ LA
Mounds View Public Schools ◆ Minn.
Central Community School District ◆ LA
Chelmsford Public Schools ◆ Mass.
Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District ◆ Mass.
86elmira City Schools ◆ N.Y.
Glendora Usd ◆ Calif.
Harnett County Schools ◆ N.C.
Holmes County School District ◆ Miss.
Jefferson Parish Public School System ◆ LA
Harlandale Independent School District ◆ Texas
Kyrene School District ◆ Ariz.
Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools #00 ◆ Ariz.
Kenosha Unified School District ◆ Wis.
Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District ◆ Texas
Maryland School for the Deaf ◆ MD
Mclean County District Unit No. 5 ◆ Ill.
Williamson County Schools ◆ Tenn.
Mesa Public Schools ◆ Ariz.
Palmdale School District ◆ Calif.
Plain Local School District ◆ Ohio
St. Martin Parish Schools ◆ LA
Oak Harbor School District ◆ Wash.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools ◆ MD
Vancouver Island University ◆ B.C.
Brandon School Division ◆ MB
Dalhousie University ◆ N.S.
Peace River School Division ◆ AB
University of Sudbury ◆ Ont.
Sandy Spring Friends School
The Pomfret School ◆ Conn.
Riverside Military Academy ◆ GA
The Thacher School ◆ Calif.
Education Executive - Summer 2012