Improvements in our Educational System for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Improvements in our Educational System for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

The Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has collaborated with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for many years to provide resources and expertise to improve services for deaf children in the educational system. MCDHH has a Memorandum of Understanding with DESE that focuses on several quality assurance initiatives, including professional development for teachers, educational interpreters and resources for families with deaf or hard of hearing students. DESE provides the educational expertise and in-depth knowledge of the public and private educational opportunities available to students in the Commonwealth, and MCDHH contributes a wide range of expertise regarding communication needs, technology resources, and issues important to families.The current MOU addresses the sign language communication skills needed by teachers and interpreters, and the educational expertise needed by families in order to have their children be successful in school.

Registration  of Sign Language Interpreters who work in K-12 Schools  
In 2007, DESE passed a regulation requiring that individuals who provide interpreting or communication support in the classroom register with MCDHH so that those individuals could receive the professional development, peer networking, and training available from DESE and other local institutions.

Training, Professional Development and Registration  of K-12 Sign Language Interpreters
Professional development opportunities are jointly funded by DESE and other community organizations, and include workshops, preparation for proficiency testing, training for content-specific vocabulary and grammar, and mentoring for those with less interpreting experience. Presently over 165 interpreters are registered with MCDHH and participate in a variety of workshops and programs.

Educational  Interpreter Performance Assessment 
The Educational Interpreters Performance Assessment (EIPA) was developed in 1991 by the Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska and is nationally recognized as a reliable, comprehensive assessment of the interpreting skills needed by interpreters who work in educational settings. There is both a performance assessment and a written exam.  Interpreters who work in Massachusetts are encouraged to take both exams to demonstrate their expertise and receive workshops and other resources in order to prepare for the assessment.

Registration, training, and assessment  of  K-12 sign language interpreters is a three-step approach to  improving  communication accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing children who use sign language interpreters in school. And, supporting consistent quality in classroom communication is an important part of the work we are doing to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing  schoolchildren have the best opportunities to learn that Massachusetts  can provide.

Special thanks to Aurora Wilber, Project Coordinator, Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for information on this fact sheet.

Fact Sheet last updated on: 6/4/2021