ATLANTA — Researchers at Georgia State University's College of Education have been awarded a significant $10 million grant to create the first national research center aimed at dramatically improving reading for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH).
The competitive grant from the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, will have a major impact on curriculum development for and assessment of deaf children, funding a team of researchers whose work will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the way DHH students learn, and the creation of intervention models that can be replicated in schools nationwide.
"Georgia State University's researchers are uniquely qualified to lead this kind of important national endeavor," said Provost Risa Palm. "The grant will support research that will be of immense importance to large numbers of children. Further, it represents another milestone in the trajectory of GSU as a national leader in special education research."
The grant will provide funding to create the National Research and Development Center for Literacy and Deafness (CLAD), the first of its kind to focus on deaf children. The CLAD will join four other prestigious centers currently funded by the NCSER that currently focus on issues important to special education.
The center's focus is particularly important given that poor literacy outcomes have long characterized the deaf population – despite the fact that most deaf students have normal intellectual potential, said professor Amy Lederberg, a principal investigator of the study. Historically, many deaf children graduated from high school reading with reading skills insufficient to access many postsecondary opportunities.
The researchers will conduct a five-year interdisciplinary study to determine how deaf and hard of hearing children learn to read and to develop interventions focused on improving reading outcomes from kindergarten to second grade. In addition to engaging in research and curriculum development, the center will provide national leadership activities for professionals interested in improving the lives of deaf and hard of hearing children.
"This research will help create evidence-based and effective intervention methods that will have far reaching effects," Lederberg said. "We hope these methods will have a large portion of the deaf and hard of hearing population reading well by the second grade."
Susan Easterbrooks, a COE special education professor and a fellow principal investigator on the study, said the team plans to conduct a series of assessments and develop instructional strategies that will help students better acquire the basic skills to make progress in reading.
Center experts will focus on addressing the different ways deaf and hard of hearing children learn to read. Most DHH children who receive early intervention that includes cochlear implants or digital hearing aids have enough functional hearing to acquire some spoken language, which gives them a road map for the written word. In contrast, young children whose only language is sign language face a more difficult task because they learn to read a language they do not speak.
"The center's goals are two-fold, "Easterbrooks said. "We want to identify both child and instructional factors that affect reading growth and develop individualized interventions that are specifically designed for DHH struggling readers."
Other researchers involved in the project are Lee Branum-Martin and Paul Alberto, from GSU; Shirin Antia, from the University of Arizona; Brenda Schick, from the University of Colorado at Boulder; Carol Connor from Arizona State University; and Poorna Kushalnagar from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
For more information on NCSER and the IES National Special Education Research and Development Centers, visit http://ies.ed.gov/ncser/RandD/