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Special Education Research and Development Center Program





Principal Investigator:

Lederberg, Amy


Georgia State University


Special Education Research and Development Center Program [Program Details]

Award Period:


Award Amount:



Multiple Goals

Special Education Research and Development Center on Reading Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Purpose: Poor literacy skills have been characteristic of the deaf population for decades. National data suggest that median literacy rates of deaf high school graduates have remained consistently around the fourth grade level since the beginning of the twentieth century. About one in five deaf students who graduate from high school have reading skills at or below the second grade level; about one in three deaf students who graduate from high school have reading skills between the second and fourth grade level. Compared to deaf students, hard of hearing students (i.e., those with mild to moderate hearing loss) fare better overall, but even mild hearing losses can create significant challenges for developing reading skills. Proficiency in reading is critical for furthering one's education and achieving success in the workplace. Improving reading outcomes for students who are deaf or hard of hearing requires substantial additional research, particularly research to identify, develop, and test instructional approaches, curricula, and other innovative education interventions designed to enhance the reading skills of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The focus of the Center is a program of research to explore underlying factors related to literacy for young students who are deaf or hard of hearing (pre-kindergarten through Grade 3) and to develop innovative approaches to improving reading instruction for these students. The ultimate objective of the Center is to improve literacy skills for students in early elementary school to maximize the potential long-term impact of an early literacy skills intervention on literacy development and overall school performance.

Projects: The Center's primary research will involve three sets of studies: (1) an identification study, (2) iterative design studies, and (3) promise studies.

Focused Program of Research:

Identification Study
At least 120 students in each grade (K–2) with moderate to profound hearing loss will participate in this study during Years 1–2. Data will be collected on a number of child factors including background, phonological awareness, literacy, and language skills, as well as classroom practices, teacher background, and family characteristics. The team will analyze the data to: (1) understand the language and literacy abilities in students who are deaf or hard of hearing; (2) describe classroom instruction that students receive in a variety of elementary school settings; and (3) investigate language and literacy skills over the school year as a function of child, classroom, and school characteristics as well as interactions between child and instructional characteristics.

Iterative Design Studies
During years 24, the team will develop interventions that can be adapted to students with moderate to profound hearing loss, including students who speak English, use sign language, or use both languages. These interventions will teach early reading skills, vocabulary, English syntax, and advanced language and cognitive skills. An iterative design process will be used to develop each intervention separately.

Promise Studies
After developed, the promise of the interventions will be evaluated with students in pre-K through Grade 3 using a number of research designs, including cluster randomized controlled trials, pre- and post-test group designs, and single-case design. Students will be assessed on a variety of distal and proximal measures to determine whether the intervention shows promise for improving language and literacy outcomes.

Key Personnel: Georgia State University: Amy Lederberg, Susan Easterbrooks, Lee Branum-Martin, Mi-young Webb; University of Arizona: Shirin Antia; University of Colorado at Boulder: Brenda Schick; Rochester Institute of Technology: Poorna Kushalnagar; Arizona State University: Carol Connor

IES Program Contact:
Dr. Amy Sussman
Telephone: (202) 219-2126

Project Website:

Related IES Projects: Improving Deaf Preschoolers' Literacy Skills (R324E060035); Foundations for Literacy: An Intervention for Young Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (R324A110101)

Publications from this project:

Easterbrooks, S. R., Lederberg, A. R., Antia, S., Schick, B., Kushalnagar, P., Webb, M. Y., Branum-Martin, L., & Connor, C. M. (2015). Reading among diverse deaf and hard of hearing learners: What, how, and for whom? American Annals for the Deaf, 159 (5), 419–432.

Webb, M. Y., Lederberg, A. R., Branum-Martin, L., Connor, C. M. (in press). Evaluating the structure of early English literacy skills in deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.