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Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

by Lisa Crawford, Parent Liaison, Educational Resource Center on Deafness at TSD  Parts of this article are adapted from a 2003 press release from the National Agenda, and can be found at .

Abstract: Parents of children with deafblindness should learn about The National Agenda for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students and what it means for their children.


Keywords: Family Wisdom, deaf, hard of hearing, educational equality, national agenda


If you are the parent of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) you should be aware of a document called The National Agenda: Moving Forward on Achieving Educational Equality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students. As parents, we know all too well that education for students who are D/HH is far from perfect. Although there are many truly dedicated professionals in the field, there are many other issues that prevent some of our children from receiving a quality education. Inadequate federal and state funding, lack of research, and lack of understanding of the complex needs of our children are just a few of the reasons contributing to this problem. The National Agenda is not a legal document, but rather a series of recommendations based on research and input from parents, professionals, and consumers of D/HH education services and programs. The highly dedicated group of individuals who wrote this document have years of experience, and vast knowledge about the needs of students who are D/HH.

I find this document helpful because I am a parent, not an educator.  It helps explain very clearly why certain educational strategies related to placement, communication, language, and literacy are appropriate for my daughter. It has helped me talk about her needs more effectively with the teachers and administrators at her school, and assists me to help develop goals for her IEP. I encourage all parents and educators to read through this important document.  You never know, you may be inspired to help raise awareness and be a part of the change our children need.

The excerpt below is taken from the National Deaf Education Project website where you can read about individual state efforts to reform deaf education. To learn more about the Texas State Reform, please visit the Texas School for the Deaf website at <>.

The National Agenda (NA) is an historic coalition of parent, consumer, professional, and advocacy organizations involved in the education of children who are deaf and hard of hearing, are working to develop an effective, communication- and language-driven educational delivery system for our children.

Why the National Agenda?

The NA formed for one significant reason: the educational system that serves deaf and hard of hearing children is incomplete and ineffective. Our children, despite their innate abilities, passions, and dreams do not leave school with the skills necessary to be productive adults.


We have known this for a long time and our concerns have been expressed repeatedly and clearly. We do not see the problem as one of individual educators, but rather a larger systemic failure. IDEA was enacted in 1975 and yet the existing system does not understand the central role that communication and language play for our children and how educational and personal growth requires an effective and age-appropriate communication mode and language.


Our colleagues in the blind and visually-impaired communities faced similar frustrations and as a result developed their own national agenda. In 1995 the NA for the education of blind and visually-impaired students including those with multiple disabilities was launched with an endorsement from OSERS Assistant Secretary Judith Heumann. Built around eight national goals the Blind Agenda has grown to include national goal leaders, state goal leaders and a coalition of over 200 endorsing organizations, agencies and schools. Their NA has become the focus of their advocacy and government relations, national, state and local conferences, and numerous articles and position papers as well as websites.


The blind and visually-impaired communities have provided us with an effective example, from which we have taken both inspiration and the general characteristics of their model and have begun to build an “Agenda” specifically designed to meet the unique communication, language, literacy, and educational needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In this developmental stage the NA has been monitored by a small steering committee and an Advisory Committee composed of representatives from CED organizations, CAID, ASDC, CEASD, AGBell, NAD, ACE-DHH and most recently representatives from public day school education for deaf and hard of hearing students.


What is the NA Vision?

The NA is working for the development of a true communication-driven, literacy focused educational system and a national/state/local support structure for parents, children and educators.


Our vision is three-fold: to build a grass roots movement united behind a set of definitive national goals, to establish a local, state, regional, and national NA so that parents, professionals, consumers, academicians, advocates, and others have a mechanism through which information can be exchanged, resources created, and work commenced on problems at those various levels, and to advocate for a communication and language-driven educational delivery system whereby every deaf and hard of hearing child will be provided with a quality, literacy-focused, language-rich education.


What Has the NA Done so Far?

The NA Steering Committee drafted the first National Agenda which include 8 goal areas/recommendations:

  1. Early Identification and Intervention. The Development of Communication, Language, Social, and Cognitive Skills at the earliest possible age is fundamental to subsequent educational growth for deaf and hard of hearing students.
  2. Language and Communication Access. All children who are deaf and hard of hearing deserve a quality communication-driven program that provides education together with a critical mass of communication, age, and cognitive peers, as well as language proficient teachers and staff who communicate directly in the child’s language.
  3. Collaborative Partnerships. Partnerships which will influence education policies and practices to promote quality education for students who are deaf and hard of hearing must be explored.
  4. Accountability, High Stakes Testing, and Standards-Based Environments. Instruction for students who are deaf and hard of hearing must be data-driven and must focus on multiple measures of student performance.
  5. Placement, Programs, and Services. The continuum of placement options must be made available to all students who are deaf and hard of hearing, with the recognition that natural and least restrictive environments are intricately tied to communication and language.
  6. Technology. Accommodations, assistive and adaptive technologies, and emerging technologies must be maximized to improve learning for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
  7. Professional Standards and Personnel Preparation. New collaborations and initiatives among practitioners and training programs must address the serious shortage of qualified teachers and administrators.
  8. Research. Federal and state dollars should be spent on effective, research-based programs and practices.

This and other drafts were posted nationally and the NA received thousands of comments from individuals and groups around the nation. In April, 2005 the first hard copy of the National Agenda Goals was published. The NA members have made presentations on the NA at conferences and workshops across the country. It is our intention to have parents, professionals and consumers ultimately craft the National Agenda and together we will implement it.


What Next?

The NA is both a product and a process, the 8 goal areas always being works in progress and reflective of the latest thinking and concerns of our constituencies. The written National Agenda will continue to change and grow. The National Agenda will be working on developing regional, state and local NA leaders, disseminating the current version of the written NA, and working with the U.S. Department of Education and NASDSE (National Association of State Special Education Directors) to further the NA vision.


What Can You Do for the NA?

First and foremost download and read the NA. You should then join the campaign to publicize the NA in your local community. has a power point presentation that you may download to use in spreading the word about the NA. You may also get this power point at .