University of Texas at Austin educational psychologist Stephanie Cawthon has received $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Education to spearhead a nationwide effort to reduce dropout rates and improve postsecondary education and employment outcomes for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Cawthon will use the grant money to oversee the research arm of a newly formed national Center for Results in Education and Employment for Deaf Students.
"I'll be evaluating the resources, accommodations and policies that are in place now and determining what changes may be needed to help deaf and hard of hearing individuals successfully transition from high school to postsecondary education and then into jobs," said Cawthon, an assistant professor in the College of Education's Department of Educational Psychology. "Center activities will focus on evidence-based practices and will be developed from the most current scientific findings from interdisciplinary fields."
Cawthon will spend the first year of the five-year grant conducting a national needs assessment and literature review to identify gaps in services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.
"Many who are deaf may have unidentified issues such as learning disabilities and aren't receiving help and resources for those needs," said Cawthon. "Also, at the secondary level, education and transition needs often are left unaddressed. The needs assessment will give us a clearer picture of the current situation and help the center be more efficient and effective."
Cawthon said it is not enough to make resources such as online chat forums and informational blogs available to professionals who work with deaf and hard of hearing students. It also is important to place those resources where a widely dispersed target population can easily find and access them.
Estimates vary, but recent federal statistics and research indicate that two to four of every 1,000 people in the U.S. are "functionally deaf" and anywhere from 37 to 140 of every 1,000 people are hard of hearing. The most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation suggest that about 0.38 percent of the population over 5 years of age is deaf.
"Many institutions, like universities, may only have two or three deaf students and may not have had anyone in place to administer tests in American Sign Language or help them with career counseling and placement," said Cawthon. "The center will be able to help these institutions build capacity and tap into resources that may already exist somewhere else in the nation."
Cawthon's $1.3 million in funding is part of a total $20 million, five-year grant from the Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs. In addition to The University of Texas at Austin, the center also includes university partners California State University-Northridge, St. Paul College in Wisconsin, the University of Montana at Missoula and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.