Deaf children receive an inferior education caused in part by a misguided emphasis on placing them in regular public schools, a government commission reported Monday.
"The quality of education available to children who are deaf is poor," said the Commission on Education of the Deaf.The 13-member panel, created by Congress in 1986, said more attention must be paid to deaf students who are not college bound.
The commission's 144-page report, "Toward Equality: Education of the Deaf," says the U.S. Department of Education has pushed too hard to "mainstream" deaf children into regular public school classes instead of special schools or centers devoted to the deaf.
"The state of the art in the education of persons who are deaf is characterized by inappropriate priorities and inadequate resources," said the commission, chaired by Frank G. Bowe, a regional commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
Two-thirds of the commission members are themselves deaf or hard of hearing, including Bowe. Actress Nanette Fabray MacDougall was also on the panel.
The report recommended changes in the management of Gallaudet University, including appointment of a deaf majority to its board of trustees. That was a student demand in the recent protests that forced the naming of the first deaf president at Gallaudet.
The Gallaudet protests and the commission report spring from the same philosophy: that the deaf want more control over their own affairs and full recognition of deaf culture, including American Sign Language, their primary means of communication.
The commission said significant strides have been made in educating the deaf since 1965, the last time a federal panel recommended improvements.
But it said, "the actual implementation of these initiatives has been inadequate and sometimes misguided, and that progress has at best been spotty and sporadic."
"All too often," the report said, changes "turned out to be more well-meaning than effective."
"The federal government does much more for high-achieving deaf students than for those whom the nation's schools have failed. The ironic result is that those who need the most receive the least," it said.
It said schools should "pay attention to educational content rather than mere placement to what is taught rather than where it is taught."
The report said 95 percent of all deaf children are "prelingually deaf" left without hearing at birth or deprived of it in infancy and the United States is not doing a good enough job identifying them soon after birth.
Ninety percent of deaf children have hearing parents.