FAQs for ASL Content Standards

Why do we need American Sign Language (ASL) content standards? How will they address the challenges in today's deaf education?

Currently there are no formally documented national ASL content standards for L1 learners. By taking this initiative to have the ASL content standards developed, the Clerc Center hopes to encourage educators to take an intensive look at the linguistic development of their students to ensure they are developing appropriately and attaining language development benchmarks. The ASL content standards are necessary to give today's educators realistic benchmarks and grade-level indicators of student development in ASL. This is important because without the standards, each educator has a different evaluation tool. This does not reflect the norm in education today which is focused on standards and evidence-based reporting.

For whom are the content standards? How can they be used with students with diverse abilities?

The purpose of the ASL content standards is to guide ASL instruction so that deaf and hard of hearing children learn about and study ASL as a first language in the same way hearing children in the United States learn about English as part of their academic studies. These standards are based on grade-level expectations of children learning ASL as their first language (L1). Similar to teachers teaching English to students who are English language learners, teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students are expected to align instructional plans and assessments to gauge student progress towards achieving grade-level ASL competencies.

What is the current status of the content standards development process?

Like the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the ASL content standards will consist of four parts: 1) an introduction and rationale used in developing the ASL content standards, 2) the K-12 ASL content standards, 3) a reference section, and 4) an ASL glossary. The introduction section explains the research foundation, the anchor standards, expectations, and the structure of the standards. This section is being finalized. The K-12 ASL Content Standards have been completed through a three-year feedback and revision process. The Clerc Center is preparing an open comment process to collect national feedback from ASL teachers, ASL specialists, and other interested stakeholders about the use of the content standards as a web-based resource to support ASL instruction in grades K to 12. The national feedback will help shape the final design of the content standards and allow ASL teachers and specialists to easily access, select, and use the standards for ASL instruction in their classrooms. The reference section cites research and evidence used to provide the rationale for the development of the content standards. This section is also being finalized. The glossary is a compilation of terms used in the content standards. We are collaborating with the California School for the Deaf and the American Sign Language Round Table (ASLRT) in the development and filming of an ASL Standards Glossary. The Clerc Center plans to launch the content standards in January 2018.

How can I be a part of the open comment process?

The open comment process will be announced on our website and social media sites and via e-mail alerts. If you would like to subscribe to our e-mail list, please register here https://gallaudet.hobsonsradius.com/ssc/eform/KC7A72C78670x6700rG03F.ssc.

Why has it taken so long to complete the content standards?

Developing academic content standards for the first time is a complex process, more complex than we predicted. It has required two phases. The Clerc Center is committed to investing the time and resources necessary to develop L1 standards, obtain input and make necessary revisions to reflect the language development process, and support teachers' use of content standards in ASL instruction. Like the Common Core State Standards, which took seven years to develop, it takes time to develop quality standards.

Will the content standards be available in ASL?

We will be using the open comment process described above to gather information about which components should be provided in ASL. 

Why are the content standards only focusing on K-12? Why don't they include 0-Pre-K content standards?

Our focus and commitment has been on K-12. Other groups have done some work in 0-4 ASL development. Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) has developed a Visual Communication and Sign Language Checklist: http://vl2.gallaudet.edu/resources/vcsl/.

Since the ASL content standards component is completed, is it possible to get a preview of these prior to the launch?

The development of ASL content standards as a web-based product is a complex process. It requires a careful design to ensure the use of ASL as a visual-spatial is appropriately included in the design, and that the content standards support ASL teachers' use for ASL instruction, whether for a specific grade, a specific standard, or across all standards and grades. For ASL teachers, ranging from new to experienced, to use the ASL content standards component effectively, they will need: 1) the introduction that explains the research foundation and the different standards, core expectations and uses of the content standards and its organization, and 2) the glossary of specific terms that is essential for teachers to effectively use the content standards.

Will there be resources provided to support implementation of the content standards?

The focus of this work is to develop K-12 content standards. However, many schools and programs serving deaf and hard of hearing students have been collaborating in developing and sharing ASL activities, materials, and resources. It is our hope that there will be an increased interest in this collaborative effort after the content standards are disseminated.

Do the content standards tell teachers what to teach?

Teachers know best about what works in the classroom. That is why these standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers decide how best to help students reach the content standards.

What is the difference between an ASL curriculum and ASL content standards?

The ASL content standards, which can be incorporated into the curriculum, will state clear and expected grade-level goals for students. They will also have established benchmarks that will help ASL teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in interacting with individuals in postsecondary programs and in the workforce in the future. An ASL curriculum is a set of courses and their contents that specifies what topics must be understood and to what level to achieve a particular grade or standard.

What research or evidence is used to develop the expected grade-level ASL L1 skills and competencies for grades K-12?  

The content standards will have an introduction section that describes the general language development process, drawing from available research in ASL language acquisition and linguistics, upon which the ASL content standards are based. The CCSS in ELA are based on the research in language development that has taken place over many years. There are similarities in language development among languages. The content standards reflect this as well as address aspects of ASL as a visual language that are different than spoken languages.

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