Q: Why do we need K-12 American Sign Language (ASL) Content Standards? How will they address the challenges in today's deaf education?
A: Currently, there are no formally documented national ASL Content Standards for L1 learners. By taking this initiative to have the ASL Content Standards developed, the Clerc Center hopes to encourage educators to take an intensive look at the linguistic development of their students to ensure they are developing appropriately and attaining language development benchmarks. The K-12 ASL Content Standards are necessary to give today’s educators realistic benchmarks and grade-level indicators of student development in ASL. This is important because without the Standards, each educator has a different evaluation tool. This does not reflect the norm in education today, which is focused on standards and evidence-based reporting.
Q: For whom are the K-12 ASL Content Standards intended? How can they be used with students with diverse abilities?
A: The purpose of the K-12 ASL Content Standards is to guide ASL instruction so that deaf and hard of hearing children can learn about and study ASL as a first language in the same way hearing children in the United States learn about English as part of their academic studies. The Standards are based on grade-level expectations of children learning ASL as their first language (L1). As with teachers teaching English to students who are English Language Learners, teachers of deaf students are expected to align instructional plans and assessments to gauge student progress towards achieving grade-level ASL competencies.
Q: May people other than ASL teachers use the K-12 ASL Content Standards?
A: Yes, anyone may use the Standards.
Q: Why has it taken so long to complete the K-12 ASL Content Standards?
A: Developing academic content standards for the first time is a complex process–more complex than we had predicted. The process has required two phases. The Clerc Center was committed to investing the time and resources necessary to develop L1 standards, obtain input, and make necessary revisions to reflect the language development process and to support teachers’ use of the Standards in ASL instruction. Like the Common Core State Standards, which took 7 years to develop, it takes time to develop quality standards.
Q: What was the K-12 ASL Content Standards development process?
A: The K-12 ASL Content Standards comprises four parts: an introduction and rationale, the Anchor Standards and grade-level standards, a glossary, and a reference section. The Standards were developed by the Clerc Center in collaboration with a team of researchers from the fields of ASL linguistics and deaf education, educators from several universities and their school partners, and the California School for the Deaf, Fremont. The team of researchers helped develop the research foundation for the Standards during the first phase of this project. Teachers, faculty, staff, and leaders from participating schools, universities, and organizations also made important contributions to the development of knowledge through research and practice. ASL teachers, specialists, and experts participated as reviewers in feedback groups in ASL Round Table (ASLRT) conferences from 2014 to 2017. Their feedback, summarized and shared with the California School for the Deaf, Fremont, guided the final development of the Standards. Feedback from reviewers participating in feedback groups also led to the development of glossary terms. The support of the ASLRT members who provided guidance made it possible to develop terms in ASL that reflect ASL instruction and content standards language. The Clerc Center also implemented an open comment process to collect feedback. Feedback was used to guide the design and development of the Standards as a web-based resource to support the instruction of ASL teachers and specialists who teach ASL as a first language to deaf and hard of hearing students.
Q: Why do the ASL Content Standards only focus on K-12? Why don’t they include 0-Pre-K standards?
A: Our focus and commitment has been on K-12 because this effort parallels the development of the Common Core State Standards, which focuses on grades K-12. Other groups have done some work in 0-4 ASL development. Gallaudet University’s Science of Learning Center for Visual Language and Visual Learning has developed a Visual Communication and Sign Language Checklist, http://vl2.gallaudet.edu/resources/vcsl/.
Q: Will there be resources provided to support implementation of the K-12 ASL Content Standards?
A: The focus of this work was to develop K-12 ASL Content Standards. Meanwhile, many schools and programs serving deaf and hard of hearing students have been collaborating in developing and sharing ASL activities, materials, and resources. It is our hope that there will be an increased interest in this collaborative effort after the Standards are disseminated. The Clerc Center will be hosting a series of discussion forums with experts in the field to answer questions and moderate discussions about the Standards. Information collected from these sessions, along with a national survey from the Clerc Center to learn more about different uses of the Standards, will help determine next steps.
Q: Do the K-12 ASL Content Standards tell teachers what to teach?
A: Teachers know best about what works in their classroom. This is why the Standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers decide how best to help students reach the standards.
Q: What is the difference between an ASL curriculum and ASL Content Standards?
A: The K-12 ASL Content Standards, which can be incorporated into the curriculum, will state expected grade-level goals for students. They will also have established benchmarks that will help ASL teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in interacting with individuals in postsecondary programs and in the workforce in the future. An ASL curriculum is a set of courses and their contents that specifies what topics must be understood and on which levels in order to achieve a particular grade or standard.
Q: What research or evidence is used to develop the expected grade-level ASL L1 skills and competencies for grades K-12?
A: The introduction section of the K-12 ASL Content Standards describes the general language development process, drawing from available research in ASL language acquisition and linguistics, upon which the ASL standards are based. The CCSS ELA are based on the research in language development that has taken place over many years. There are similarities in language development among languages. The Standards also address the most important aspect of ASL as a language; ASL is a visual language with some characteristics that are different from spoken languages. A reference list is included within the Standards document and on the Standards webpage.
Q: The K-12 ASL Content Standards do not include references to heritage languages. Why not?
A: As with the standards for CCSS ELA, the K-12 ASL Content Standards resource is considered to be a “living document.” As new thinking and evidence emerges from professional practice and research on deaf and hard of hearing students’ ASL development, efforts to expand on and/or adapt the Standards are expected.
Q: Whose work is the K-12 ASL Content Standards?
A: The K-12 ASL Content Standards as a resource is a culmination of years of effort involving many different individuals, including teachers, practitioners, researchers, universities, schools, and organizations throughout the nation (Acknowledgments). This resource would not have been possible without the involvement of everyone who contributed to this work. The Standards is a national resource that is available to everyone.