CRITICAL NEXT STEPS To identify the critical next steps in supporting children and youth statewide and to determine if the state is meeting its obligations under the Bill of Rights, the reestablished Task Force brought together 34 representatives from the following stakeholder groups: Public School Special Education Directors; Charter Schools; Private Schools; Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumers; Legislature; Universities; Parent Advocates; Regional Education Cooperatives; State Special Schools; Native Programs; Early Intervention Programs. The 2014 Task Force used the Deaf Education Bill of Rights and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing experience as their guide and framework. They also started every meeting by gathering information from deaf and hard of hearing stakeholders to ground their work in the experiences and realities of being deaf and hard of hearing in the public education system. The Task Force scanned the state for services that are successful for students and identified the areas where additional strategies are needed for more effective outcomes for children and youth who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Task Force had three one-day meetings (December 2014, April 2015 and September 2015). Three subcommittees were formed (Early Intervention, Instruction, and Capacity) to push forward the work between the scheduled Task Force meetings. Recommendations and goals created by the Task Force, and honed by subcommittee work, are outlined in this report. With an iterative process, which allowed every member to revisit information and provide input at each stage of the process, the Task Force identified the following priority areas.
Early Identification and Intervention
•Increase data and tracking from screening to early intervention •Increase access to qualified service providers and develop assurances relative to accountability and fidelity of service delivery
•Develop standards for appropriate assessments to measure a variety of skills and areas •Clarify and implement what constitutes a “Least Restrictive Environment” for deaf and hard of hearing students •Develop quality standards for a variety of instructional-related areas •Develop and expand upon school to career and/or post-secondary education transition services and connections between agencies and school programs
•Increase family engagement through opportunities for families to learn from other parents and professionals •Ensure qualified educators of the deaf and hard of the hearing (ECE, K-12) including building local professional capacity •Ensure qualified K-12 interpreters including building local professional capacity
LANDMARK DOCUMENTS GUIDING THE WORK OF THE TASK FORCE The findings and recommendations of the 2014 New Mexico Task Force are the product of an inventory of educational services for deaf and hard of hearing students in New Mexico including input by the Task Force membership. Supporting the content of this final report are important legislation and documents representing the hard work of a cross section of the field, including state and local administrators, teachers who work with D/HH students, students, families and academics. Task Force members used scholarly and legislative input critical to the development of recommendations. In 2003, the New Mexico Task Force on the Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing published Toward Brighter Futures which acknowledged a variety of national efforts, including publications focusing on the need to reform that education, to make it language-driven and to ensure that the concept of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) reflected the central language needs of deaf and hard of hearing students. As the report stated “the broader complexities of the LRE mandate continue to pose difficulties for many children and youth who are deaf or hard of hearing.” As a result of the work of the Task Force in 2003, New Mexico enacted the Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights (NMSA 28-11C-3) which required that “deaf and hard-of-hearing children be placed in the least restrictive educational environment and receive services based on their unique communication, language and educational needs” and receive services from educators who are “specifically trained to work with hard-of-hearing and deaf pupils and can communicate spontaneously and fluidly with these children.” 5
New Mexico Task Force for Education for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Children & Youth