Why the NDEP Now…?
(National Deaf Education Project NOW)
“The need and right to communicate
is the most fundamental of human rights.
To deny it is to harm the human spirit.
To foster communication is
to reveal all the possibilities of life.”
Lawrence Siegel, J.D.
The debate over deaf education has continued for decades and yet one thing remains unchanged–many of our children continue to leave school unprepared, without the communication, language, or literacy skills necessary for an individual to become a productive and happy adult. We know the statistics all too well– 3rd grading reading skills, deficiencies in many academic subjects and yet as Marc Marschark has recently written, “There is general agreement that such difficulties are not direct consequences of hearing loss.”
Even with the advent of newborn hearing screening, early identification of hearing loss, and new technologies, our children continue to face a limited future. Why is this? While communication and language are at the heart of everything we do as humans and without them there can be no cognitive, academic, social, emotional and literacy growth, American law and educational policy do not recognize this fundamental truth, and indeed, often work against it.
What is the NDEP Vision?
Given the absolute and central importance of communication and language to the educational experience the NDEP has developed a communication and language-driven educational paradigm that must be mandated by law to provide:
- Appropriate, yearly communication and language assessment
- on-going, system-wide communication and language development
- communication and language access (to age, cognitive, and language peers and staff proficient in the child’s communication mode, language, and/or signing system
What has the NDEP done?
The NDEP has approached reform of deaf education in a variety of ways. First, it published the “Statement of Principle” which describes in detail the reasons for, and components of, a “communication and language-driven” educational system for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Statement has been widely accepted, included in legislative recommendations to Congress, and is the centerpiece of the National Agenda, a national reform movement of the leading organizations involved in the education of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. NDEP has also:
- Developed a reform strategy to help individual states craft a written reform plan and enact a Deaf Child’s Educational Bill of Rights (DCBR). New Mexico and Colorado have both passed a Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights and developed written reform plans.
- Articulated the position that IDEA violates 1st and 14th Amendment rights of deaf and hard of hearing children. The NDEP is working for a legal recognition of the right to communication and language.
- Served as one of four advisory members of the National Agenda (NA) which has developed eight national goals for the reformation of the education for deaf and hard of hearing students. The NA is working with the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education [NASDSE] to further the cause of a communication and language-driven paradigm.
- Co-sponsored, with Hands & Voices, the production of a definitive training video that describes how to create and implement communication and language-driven programming for students who are deaf or hard of hearing titled “A is for Access.”
What is Happening Across the Country?
There is a clear and exciting movement across the country to reform deaf education. NDEP, the National Agenda, Hands & Voices, and other groups are actively engaged in developing strategies for change. In April 2005, state educational leaders, parents, and consumers met at the first annual State Leaders Summit on Deaf Education to discuss how to go forward with state and national reform efforts. In the next few years we anticipate significant efforts throughout the country to make education for students who are deaf or hard of hearing communication and language-driven.
What Can NDEPNOW Do For You?
NDEPNOW can help your state move forward on the reformation of deaf education:
- What are the specific problems in your state, and how can you work on developing a communication and language-driven educational system?
- What is a Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights, and could your state pass this law?
- What have other states done to reform deaf education in their systems?
- How do you mobilize parents and professionals to accomplish this change?
- How can you begin an NDEP NOW project in your state?
For more information on how to get involved, contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.handsandvoices.org