Oakland educator Chynna Wilson has taught and supported 6th, 7th, & 8th grade Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. On a daily basis, Wilsons says she would communicate with the general education teachers and modify or change the curriculum so her students could understand their class work.
Sadly, earlier this year, Wilson says the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) eliminated all of the teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Deaf/HOH) program, except for a few to oversee Independent Education Plan (IEP) students. Wilson says this has removed resources vital to the students learning and future outcomes.
“In my career, my goal for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is to make the world accessible for our students through language and knowledge,” said Wilson. “Without enough support this limits the students,” she said.
Wilson says she reviews all the general education teacher tests, projects, and classwork to make sure she can give her students the appropriate vocabulary, steps, and language they will need to complete assignments. Wilson says her students attend a study skills class for one period a day allowing students to review upcoming ideas, catch up on work they did not fully understand in class, and learn important written language skills with ‘signed’ instruction.
“If I am absent our kids fall behind because they miss so much without the ‘signed’ support,” said Wilson, comparing the disruption of supportive services to being a tourist in a foreign country unable to understand their tour guide.
“Now imagine barely understanding what people are saying around you for your entire life. By the time you hear, process, and respond, the person has moved on to the next topic. This is what it’s like in our classrooms for our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.”
Wilson also noted even English language learners have a first language, but her students come to preschool or kindergarten without any solid first language.
Wilson’s research and experience, show academic achievement depends on fluency in sign language. However, nearly 95 percent of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children are born to hearing parents who do not use sign language to communicate.
“These students do not perform as well academically as their hearing peers, due in part to a lack of sign language and the lack of quality of education and support structures,” she said.
Wilson says has approached the Oakland Board of Education to present information to support her concerns regarding eliminating classrooms at each academic level for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.
She suggests staffing should include a minimum of five classroom teachers covering grades K-12, grouping grade levels.
“I hope the District reconsiders. It’s important to engage parents on the decisions made that will impact their child’s education,” she added.