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NISD Regional Day School Program for Deaf receives high marks in peer review

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NACOGDOCHES — The Nacogdoches ISD day school that supports hearing impaired children and their families received high marks in a recent statewide Peer Review process.

"I was very pleased with the results of our review," said Nacogdoches ISD RDSPD supervisor Kayla Hughes. "We did as well as we did last time, and the reviewers told us that they consider ours an exemplary program."

Among the commendations, the final report stated, "The district does an outstanding job of involving parents in the educational process through individual teacher contact, as well as program wide activities."

Five teachers, seven paraprofessionals, a secretary and Hughes form the Nacogdoches Regional Day School Program for the Deaf. They work with children from birth to 12th grade in Nacogdoches and six nearby counties.

The program undergoes peer review every three years. Its purpose, according to Education Service Center 20, is to "assist districts with the continuous improvement process."

The September review looked at seven goals through a subset of 25 indicators that considered the day school's language, communication and instruction. Of the 25 indicators measured, Nacogdoches ISD's RDSPD was found exemplary in 11 areas and effective in 11 areas.

The final report gave these commendations for the staff and district's work in deaf education:

• "All teachers in the program receive all the support, training and materials provided to teachers across the district. In addition, the RDSPD supervisor provides teacher training in accommodating the curriculum to meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students."

• "All teachers and students have access to up-to-date instructional technology. Appropriate amplification is a program priority and used at all campuses."

• "The district welcomes deaf education teachers in all curriculum, instruction and technology staff development. The deaf education supervisor meets regularly with teachers and interpreters for training and goal setting."

Reviewers also said the accompanying parent survey results showed Nacogdoches ISD to have one of highest parent satisfaction rates in the state.

Only three of the 25 examined indicators were considered "baseline," and the reviewers offered suggestions for improving in those areas. Hughes said her team has begun addressing all three.

The toughest challenge for the day school — one experienced by many rural and suburban districts in the state — is to find and keep certified deaf education interpreters.

Hughes explained that she often loses interpreters to larger cities, like Houston and Dallas, which pay more. Her goal is to increase NISD's offerings to attract and keep more interpreters here.

In addition, current RDSPD staff is undergoing training — a lengthy, two-part process — to become certified interpreters.

Developing and enacting a common communication plan is another step the day school is taking to address the baseline marks.

"I am using the reviewers' recommendations to make sure that the entire team can effectively communicate the work being done and that we all use the same terminology," Hughes said.

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