California State University, Northridge has been awarded a five-year $1.25 million grant from U.S. Department of Education to support teacher preparation among traditionally underrepresented communities, with a focus on recruitment and preparation of teacher candidates who can work with deaf students.
The grant from the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs will support Project PRISM-Ed, an initiative led by professionals in CSUN’s Departments of Deaf Studies and Special Education/Deaf Education in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education. The goal of Project PRISM-Ed is to recruit, retain and prepare highly-qualified educators to meet the needs of deaf students from diverse backgrounds.
“Research shows many deaf children are often placed in educational settings where their linguistic needs are not met,” said Rachel Friedman-Narr, a professor of deaf education and one of the leaders of the initiative. “This puts students at risk of language deprivation and language suppression, which are critical social justice issues.”
Friedman-Narr said Project PRISM-Ed will help address California’s critical shortage of qualified special education professionals who are prepared to serve deaf, hard-of-hearing and deaf-blind students.
Teacher candidates enrolled in Project PRISM-Ed will be prepared with skills in American Sign Language (ASL) and English multilingual strategies to meet the educational needs of their K-12 deaf students, particularly those living with linguistic marginalization and who are dual or multiple language learners. Successful candidates will receive specific training in advocacy and leadership in public school settings, providing them with knowledge and skills to enact change in deaf education systems that are traditionally focused on monolingualism.
Project PRISM-Ed will focus on the best practices in deaf education that incorporate culturally and linguistically sustaining practices that reflect diverse Deaf communities, Friedman-Narr said, noting that candidates will be paired with ASL mentors to ensure they have ASL linguistic abilities to meet the range of needs of their K-12 students.
At the conclusion of the program, she said, the candidates will be better prepared to serve racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse students and to advocate for their needs.
“It is imperative that California’s teachers of deaf students not only possess the critical linguistic fluency and skills to work with diverse deaf students, especially those from homes where languages other than English and ASL are used, but also incorporate knowledge, skills, and experiences that reflects, recognizes, and celebrates students’ diverse lived experiences,” said Flavia Fleischer, a professor of deaf studies who is also leading the initiative.
“By continuing to follow traditional approaches in deaf education, we are doing our deaf students an injustice in that many classrooms do not make connections to students’ lived experiences in order to draw on the strengths of the students for educational success,” Fleischer said.
Project PRISM-Ed will begin admitting students in spring 2024. Qualified applicants must be juniors or seniors majoring in deaf studies, or have other related undergraduate experiences. Scholars will receive stipends for tuition and books, travel funds, individual ASL mentorship, as well as individualized personal mentorship during their program. Program graduates will be eligible for the California Preliminary Education Specialist Credential in Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH).