SF State awarded $1 million to prepare teachers for students who are deaf-blind

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 10, 2014 -- San Francisco State University has launched an innovative new program to prepare educators for the underserved deaf-blind community, funded by a recent U.S. Department of Education grant of almost $1 million. The program addresses a critical need to increase the number of teachers with expertise in this field, especially in high-poverty urban schools, according to Professor of Special Education Pam Hunt, who coordinates the Moderate/Severe Disabilities Program at SF State.

“Teachers have a base of information about working with students who have disabilities, but they need to rely on experts with knowledge of vision, hearing and deaf-blindness,” Hunt said. “This program is unique in that we are developing teachers with a higher level of expertise. They can go on to serve as experts in their communities, even if they are not in the classroom with a student who is deaf-blind themselves.”

The $997,685 grant, effective Oct. 1, funds the launch of a specialization in deaf-blindness within the SF State Department of Special Education credential program in Moderate/Severe Disabilities. SF State will collaborate with California Deaf-Blind Services (CDBS), a statewide training and technical-assistance project serving students who are deaf-blind as well as their families and educators, which is also based at SF State and led by Hunt.

The objective of the four-year project is to train 28 teachers, with the goal of placing 95 percent in positions that will allow them to serve students with moderate/severe disabilities within one year. Of the credentialed candidates, the aim is to place 80 percent in urban settings with high needs. Seven students began training within this new specialization in the fall semester.

According to the most recent CDBS survey, 1,147 children and young people up to 21 years of age in California are deaf-blind, Hunt noted. Approximately 80 percent of students with deaf-blindness also experience additional disabilities, adding further to their support needs, she said.

In addition to taking four seminars specifically focused on learners who are deaf-blind, participants in the new specialization will intern with CDBS to get hands-on experience. For example, participants may travel with CDBS staff conducting home visits to guide parents on how to effectively communicate with their children. Participants will also perform fieldwork in classrooms, interacting with students who are deaf-blind.

A more long-term goal for the specialization is to develop a pipeline. “Deaf-blindness is a very small field, and many people who are leaders are in their 50s and 60s,” Hunt explained. “We are aware of the importance of training new leadership to take over. We realize that not all of our candidates will emerge as leaders, but if we have even two who step into national leadership roles, that’s a huge contribution to the field.”

Hunt said she plans to share her new model of a university partnering with a state agency that provides technical assistance to the deaf-blind, and hopes that it will become a successful vehicle for educational programs in other states.




Pam Hunt may be contacted directly at hunt@sfsu.edu.

SF State is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls nearly 30,000 students each year and offers nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema, biology and history to broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies. The University’s more than 228,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond.