What is bilingualism?
Bilingualism is knowing and using two languages in everyday situations by an individual.
Who is considered bilingual?
Deaf people are bilingual because they use both a signed language, such as American Sign Language (ASL) or French Sign Language (LSF), and the majority language, such as English or French, on a daily basis. Often times the majority language is used by deaf individuals through reading and writing, but this can also include oral modes of communication. A person does not have to be equally proficient in two languages to be considered bilingual.
Why educate deaf and hard of hearing students through an ASL/English bilingual model?
Research has consistently shown that deaf students with deaf parents achieve higher levels of English and academic achievement than other deaf students. Knowing this, it is logical that these students are getting information that the majority of deaf students are missing. Likewise, research has shown students who have higher levels of ASL proficiency also have higher levels of English literacy. (Strong and Prinz, 1997)
In ASL/English bilingual programs, ASL is used as the language of lectures, class discussions, and face-to-face communication. English is used through computers, textbooks, papers, PowerPoint presentations, notes, and projects. Students are taught the linguistic structure of both languages and the two languages are equally valued. ASL is also used to learn and explain English and, likewise, English is used to learn and explain ASL. With facilitation, students who understand a concept in one language can transfer that same knowledge to a second language. This use of two languages promotes higher levels of language and literacy development.
This method of bilingual instruction also gives students accessible, meaningful learning experiences and pride in their languages. The goal is for students to attain a higher level of internal motivation for learning and using both languages, and therefore achieve higher levels of social and academic achievement.
When is English used?
While much of the instruction and communication takes place in ASL, English is also constantly embedded throughout the day. English is used through computers, textbooks, papers, PowerPoint presentations, notes, projects, and when appropriate spoken English.
Teachers monitor students' development of proficiency in and using both languages. Through this process, students increase literacy skills in both ASL and English. In an ASL/English bilingual program, students learn that the two languages are equally important, and they experience meaningful situations in which each language is used.
What about learning speech?
During certain times of the day spoken English is available to students in either a contained or integrated setting. Additionally, MDS provides support services for the continued development of speech skills as requested by families.
If you would like to read more about the role of speech in ASL/ English bilingual programs, the Clerc Center covers more detail in "Where Does Speech Fit In?"
How does MDS Assess Students’ Progress?
MDS is accountable to the Minnesota Department of Education and all stakeholders in assessing students' progress. MDS complies with mandated Minnesota Statewide Assessment which include the GRAD, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, Tests of Emerging Academic English, and Alternative Assessments. In addition, MDS uses Northwest Evaluation Association's Measurement of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP). Students are administered the MAP test twice a year and individual student progress is monitored by all teachers. MDS also complies with IEP (Individual Education Plan) goals as required by federal IDEA law.
IEP Goals. When a student is identified with a disability, the educational program is required by federal law to provide services to this student.
All students entering MDS will have an interim (short-term) IEP meeting to review initial evaluation and former IEP records. The IEP team, which includes parents, the student, the teachers, and the evaluator, will develop a re-evaluation plan to assess the student's current performance level. This information will be embedded in the student's curriculum, with accommodations (if needed) to optimize the student's learning process.
Graduation Standards. Unless specified otherwise in the IEP, all Minnesota students are required to meet standards determined by the state of Minnesota.
Minnesota Graduation Standards are intended to raise standards of education for Minnesota high school students. The standards include two parts: the Minnesota Statewide Assessments and the Minnesota Academic Standards.
MDS submits a report to the Minnesota Department of Education and the school sponsor, Volunteers of America, annually. This accountability report outlines the outcomes and indicators of success central to the school's mission. Read the report from Lange Consultants here.
Minnesota Statewide Assessments
- Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment
- Test of Emerging Academic English (if needed)
- MTAS - Alternate Assessment (as determined by the IEP team)
In addition to traditional forms of testing, students at MDS are assessed through a variety of assessments. Students' languages, communicative and academic language abilities are documented at MDS. Assessments be used for coursework and IEP Goals.
For More Information on Bilingual Education for Deaf Students:
- Bilingual/Bicultural Resources from the Clerc Center's Publications and Information Dissemination
- Gallaudet University Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center - "Where Does Speech Fit In? Spoken English in a Bilingual Context"
- The NAD Position Paper on ASL and Bilingual Education
- CAL Digest - American Sign Language as a Foreign Language
- Bilingual-Bicultural Education of Deaf/Hard-of- Hearing Children
- Deaf Education Website
- RIT Library - Bilingual Bicultural Deaf Resources
- American Sign Language to English: Practical Applications for the Classroom
- Bilingual-Bicultural Education for Deaf Students: Why and Why Not
- Center for ASL/English Bilingual Education and Research