Welcome back! This summer is coming to a close and we at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) are all busy preparing to welcome new and returning students and their families for the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
The Deaf Department underwent a number of forward-looking policy and program enhancements during the 2016-17 school year which will continue in the 2017-2018 school year, including:
- Instructional Focus – Recently updated policy clarifies that our priority is for deaf and hard of hearing students to be linguistically competent in both American Sign Language and English, regarded as separate and equal in importance. Classroom instruction is based on the individualized needs of students and their Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs).
- Shortened Timelines and Expectations for Staff Fluency – Recently updated ASL policy now expects all newly hired instructional/academic staff members who work directly with deaf and hard of hearing students to achieve the required skill level standard for their position within one year of employment. We continue to monitor closely the skill standards associated with current staff members/positions. Their skill levels are evaluated using the Sign Language Proficiency Interview: ASL.
- ASL Skill Standards – As of the 2016-17 school year, a majority of instructional/academic staff members who work with deaf and hard of hearing students (137 or 90%) have met or exceeded the ASL skill standards required for their specific positions, e.g., Intermediate Plus, Advanced, Advanced Plus to Superior Plus. They are encouraged to continue to improve their skills. Of this number, 14 (10%) are expected to reach their skill standard within one year’s time.
- Expectation to Sign at All Times – We continue to stress the importance of open and accessible communication, to maximize access by and respect for deaf and hard of hearing students, staff, parents, and campus visitors.
- Hire of ASL-English Specialists – Two deaf staff members with specialized experience were added to work closely with and provide support to instructional/academic personnel and students.
- Professional Development – Instructional and academic personnel receive ongoing inservice training on effective use of ASL and English in the classroom. This training is supplemented by the provision of focused training videos developed by the ASL-English Specialists.
- ASL Program Expansion – We have increased and will continue to increase the number of teachers and ASL classes available to staff members. Community ASL classes are also offered.
The Blind Department also underwent program enhancements during the 2016-17 school year which will continue in the 2017-2018 school year, including:
- Blind K-8 School – The Blind Elementary and Middle Schools merged to improve program efficiency and service delivery.
- Assistive Technology Focus – Two assistive technology instructors were added to work with students and academic staff in the Blind Elementary/Middle School.
- STEM Focus – A new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) class focusing on coding and robotics is now available for Blind Department students who excel in math and science. Intensive math classes are also being offered.
- Braille Specialists – The role and responsibilities for the Blind Department’s three Braille Specialists now include targeted instruction and interventional support for specific grade level teams.
- New Unified English Braille (UEB) Code – Blind Department instructional/academic staff members are required to take a specialized UEB course based on the newly enhanced and adopted braille code that will be used worldwide in English-speaking countries, in order to teach both the code and all associated content matter to their students who read in braille. The course can take up to one year for completion. Course completers must successfully produce materials in the new code to demonstrate competency and pass requirements for certification.
- Music Program Enhancements – New classes have been added in band, guitar, music theory, and music engineering. A volunteer braille transcriber now works with the Music Director to assist with braille music production.
- Braille Transcribers – Volunteers who are also certified braille transcribers are continuously added; this allows for increased Braille Production Center capacity. Heavy-duty braille and tactile graphic embossing equipment at the Center also generates various forms of tactile graphics for classroom use.
These are just a few of the many areas on which we are working with students, staff, families, alumni, donors, and the community to ensure that every student succeeds and is included at FSDB!
Again, welcome back!
Dr. Jeanne Glidden Prickett
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.