NTID gets $6.1 million for deaf education

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Three national grants, totaling $6.1 million, were recently awarded to RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

The largest of these—a five-year, $5 million grant—has been assigned to NTID’s Northeast Regional Center by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The grant will allow the center—formerly the Northeast Technical Assistance Center, or NETAC—to help secondary and postsecondary programs expand access and support options for students with hearing loss through technology.

“Building on NETAC’s successful 10-year track record, this grant will now allow us to be even more effective by exploring technological advancements and professional development options for those we serve,” says Alan Hurwitz, RIT vice president and NTID dean.

Another $1.1 million has been awarded to NTID’s newly established Center for Education Research Partnerships by the National Science Foundation to foster links between research and practice in deaf education. The funds will help examine learning through sign language interpreting and real-time captioning, as well as understanding how deaf students handle multimedia instruction in today’s high-technology classrooms.

The award includes a three-year, $1 million grant aimed at understanding and optimizing deaf students’ learning strategies and a $149,000 grant for the center to host an international conference on the cognitive underpinnings of science learning among deaf students.

“Are deaf children just hearing children who cannot hear?” asked Marc Marschark, center director. “If so, educating deaf children would be a lot easier than it is. If one removes the communication barriers in the classroom, deaf and hearing students should be performing similarly. But the two groups have different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge. It is not that simple.”

External funding allows the center to work with schools, parent and educational organizations, and other agencies in the United States and abroad, as well as RIT students. Among other objectives, the center seeks to improve academic achievement of deaf students in mainstream classrooms.

“We are at a threshold in deaf education,” Marschark says. “New findings suggest that we have not made as much progress as we expected because we have been looking in the wrong places for some of the answers.”

“The results of this research will be beneficial to educators worldwide, and can be applied to not just educating those with hearing loss, but those learning a second language,” Hurwitz adds.