Alumni Day at the Ohio School for the Deaf provides the perfect setting for the exchange of information regarding the traditions of bygone days and the challenges of OSD today. Alumni from the graduating classes of 1916 and since reminisce about the undefeated basketball team of 1936-37, the Spring Dance, and "the old school." Present day students show off new dormitory furniture, trophies from the recent Central State School for the Deaf Tournament, and the latest publication of The Ohio Chronicle, printed by OSD students since 1868. All of the attendees at Alumni Day, both young and older, savor the friendships, cherish the learning, and complain about the hard work --- some things never change. The birth of the Ohio School for the Deaf was tied to Ohio's early commitment to education for all children. The 1803 State Constitution states, "Religion, morality, and knowledge — and the means for instruction shall forever be encouraged by legislative provision."
The Reverend James Hoge was primarily responsible for the creation of the public facility in Ohio for the education of deaf persons. Dr. Hoge was inspired by a letter he read from the Pennsylvania Institution, which invited Ohio to send its deaf children across the state line for educational purposes on a tuition basis. Consequently, an enumeration (counting) of deaf persons in Ohio was completed in 1823 which, at Dr. Hoge's urging, culminated in the conceptual establishment in 1826 of an Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb.
In 1827, the Ohio legislature, changing the facility's name from the Asylum to the Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, created a Board of Trustees to facilitate the founding of the Institution. Reverend Horatio N. Hubbell was appointed teacher/superintendent of the Institution in 1828 and was sent to the American Asylum in Hartford, Connecticut for specialized training in sign language and methods of instruction for the deaf. Rev. Hubbell's eighteen month training period cost the Board $394.83 in addition to his $500 per year salary.
It was soon determined that the city of Columbus would be the location of the Institution due to its centrality and its close proximity to the State Legislature. As a result, about ten acres of land were purchased for $300 on East Town Street.
Because Ohio revenues were generally being absorbed by the construction of canals in the early 1800’s, the legislature did not immediately authorize the building of the Institution. Rather, a small house was rented on the corner of Broad and High Streets in Columbus. Reverend Hubbell's first pupil was Samuel Flenniken, a twelve year old boy from Franklin County. By 1831, Reverend Hubbell was assisted by two more instructors at the Institution in order to serve the 20-25 students. The Ohio Institution became the fifth residential deaf school in the United States.
Between 1829 and 1834, instruction was provided in three other locations. In 1830, the Board of Trustees fixed $80 per annum per pupil as the rate which would be charged to parents/local communities to cover the costs of tuition, room and board, and incidental expenses. However, it was also decreed by the Ohio Legislature that one indigent pupil from each of the nine judicial districts might receive a free education for three or four years at the Institution. Children could be admitted to the Institute at age twelve and remain for the five year educational program available at that time.
While the students' classrooms were housed in the various locations mentioned previously, the female children were boarded at the home of Miss Jane Nashee at the rate $1.25 per week. The Board also furnished furniture, fuel, and candles. The teacher and the male students lived in a room adjoining the classroom.
In 1832, the new facility was erected on East Town Street for $15,000. The main building was three stories high, fifty feet by eighty feet. A barn and several outbuildings were also built. The facility was designed to accommodate 60-80 pupils and, at the time, was supposed to meet the needs of the population for many years to come. The Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb moved to its newly constructed East Town Street location in 1834 and remained there with additions and reconstruction until 1953. Children were both taught and housed on the Institution grounds, which necessitated the creation of the position of matron to care for the children during out of school hours.
Initially, the only vocational training provided to the students was to use the boys to cut wood for fuel and to maintain the grounds, including farming and the operation of a small orchard. The girls assisted in household duties. However, commencing in 1838, several trade shops were established and furnished with work tools. The shops were housed in a two story brick structure, 60 feet by 20 feet, built at a cost of $1,431.46. Private tradesmen were used to instruct the students, whose labor was offered without charge in exchange for the instruction. Shoemaking and a machine shop were among the first vocational areas.
It is interesting to note in Superintendent Rev. Hubbell's report in 1838 that he stressed the importance of educating the deaf and strongly advocated sign language. He stated that the great difficulties faced by deaf educators are the teaching of English idioms and lack of availability of suitable textbooks — needs common to instructors in modern times. Unlike public schools of the time, the school term at the Institution began in October, after the fall harvest, and extended through July. The annual budget was listed at about $8,000.00.
In 1843, the superintendent/principal had his teaching responsibilities delegated to an additional teacher, so that he might fully concentrate on managing the school. Also, until this year, it had been the responsibility of the superintendent to furnish the contents of all of the Institution buildings, except for the classrooms, out of his own salary. The following year, the position of steward was created in order to allow a person separate from the superintendent to provide for building maintenance, housing, and boarding of students. The addition of the steward, along with his family, at the facility affected what was already developing into an overcrowded building. Therefore, in 1843, the Board of Trustees sought $10,000 from the legislature for additions to the 1834 structure.
The oral-manual controversy was a large section of the Superintendent's Annual Report in 1844. It was at this time that educator Horace Mann had written of his observations of the oral classes in Germany, advocating its exclusive use in America as well. Dr. Hubbell, however, cautioned against drawing conclusions about the speech skills of the adventitiously deaf and reminded the reader of the advantages of a visual-gestural language system. The Ohio Institution was responsible for the training of many deaf educators during this era; these educators were subsequently employed at newly-founded residential schools west and south of Ohio.
Starting in 1845, a new building was erected on the Institution grounds for approximately $3,000 being spent for the heating apparatus and furnishings. One hundred four students were enrolled in the facility in 1845; however, the new wing increased the school's capacity to one hundred fifty students. Other improvements of the era included the replacement of tallow candles by coal oil at the Institution.
An 1850 account of daily life at the school indicated the following schedule of activities. The children were awakened at about 5:00 a.m. so that they might eat breakfast, family-style, with all teachers and officers (administration) in attendance. Students then completed all "household" chores followed by a study hall until 8:30 a.m., supervised by responsible students. Recess lasted until 9:00 a.m. at which time all the students and staff congregated in the chapel for prayers. The one hundred students then went to one of six classrooms for instruction until noon. After lunch, the children returned to their classrooms to study until 4:00 p.m. (School was also held on Saturday morning.) The boys worked on the grounds at various duties and the girls sewed from the time school ended until supper at 6:00 p.m. The students studied once again in the evenings.
Structural and instructional changes continued to occur throughout the later half of the nineteenth century. Gas lights replaced coal oil as an illumination element. Deaf tradesmen were hired to instruct students in the vocational shops, rather than their hearing counterparts, who seemed to lack the communication skills and understanding necessary to teach deaf students. The first female teacher was employed in 1866.
In 1868, a new main building of Franco-Italian architecture, having towers, steep roofs, and dormer windows, replaced the dilapidated 1834 building. Printing, book binding, and publication of a daily newspaper, The Ohio Chronicle, were added to male students' curriculum, while a Sewing Department taught mending and handiwork to the girls. Male teachers provided religious instruction on Sundays. In 1870, the age of admission was reduced to ten years of age; lip reading and articulation instruction were initiated at the schools, which coincided with the famous Conference at Milan (Italy), where the merits of the oral approach was promoted internationally. Also, in 1870, the Alumni Society was founded. Rugby and baseball teams were popular at the school at that time. Capital improvements included a forty-foot diameter fountain constructed on the front lawn, a green house/conservatory, and a new vocational building, which housed new shop areas of carpentry, cabinet making, and tailoring. In addition, plumbing (involving the installation of marble and tile in the lavatories) was completed, steel ceilings were installed in the students' wings, and plastering and painting (instead of calcimine treatments) became popular for use on the walls. A new school building, a gymnasium, and an electric light plant were completed in 1899.
The beginning of the twentieth century saw the school's highest attendance — 532 pupils in 1904. The school's name was officially changed to the Ohio State School for the Deaf and its operation was placed under the auspices of the State Department of Education. A fireproof hospital was erected in 1906 at a cost of nearly $30,000. A complete system of hot water heating was installed. Direct current electrical motors were replaced by alternating current models. A new well with a forty-inch pipe replaced one with a ten-inch pipe. The principal, Dr. Robert Patterson, who lost his hearing at twelve years of age, developed the school's first formal curriculum. Separate classes for oral and manual (sign language) were taught.
In 1941, school administrators and the Ohio Legislature were concerned that the East Town Street school buildings were in great disrepair. A commission was established to investigate the need for a new facility. As a result, 235 acres were purchased on the far north side of the city. This site, originally a golf course, contained wooded areas, grassy knolls, and a lovely ravine with a wide stream, and would soon be the locations for the Ohio School for the Deaf and the Ohio State School for the Blind. Construction was delayed until after World War II and after the state highway projects were finished.
The newer campus eventually contained eleven buildings with "cottage-style" housing for students, patterned after the California School for the Deaf. Staff members finished painting the interior walls of the classroom prior to the opening of school in November of 1953. Outreach projects, such as the Evaluation and Medical Clinics, which began in 1960, and the Parent/Child Program (early intervention for pre-school children and their parents) in 1968, provided valuable services statewide. The vocational training program became state certified and was expanded to include auto body repair, business office education, printing, masonry, graphics arts, auto maintenance, and commerical baking. Special support services included speech therapy in 1969, auditory training using newly purchased Suvag units in 1970, occupational therapy in 1972, and school counseling in 1976.
Changes in philosophy resulted in innovative programming, adjustment in instructional methods, and increased emphasis on out of school programming. Intensive inservice training for staff in American Sign Language, behavior intervention, and computer-assisted instruction were provided to meet changing needs. The school's technology was updated to include walk-away Telex auditory trainers, its first computer lab, state-of-the-art equipment in the vocational shops, portable TTY's, videotaping equipment, and captioned educational films through the establishment of a depository at OSD.
The population at OSD slowly decreased following P.L. 94-142 in 1975, as some students returned to local areas for programming. Work-study programming for multi-handicapped students began in 1976. Some OSD students were partially mainstreamed into the Columbus City Schools with interpreters starting in 1978, while Columbus Hearing Impaired Program students joined OSD for vocational training starting in 1977.
In 1989 OSD educated averaging 140 - 150 students annually, who ranged in age from 3 to 22 years. Forty-five professional staff members provided instruction and specialized services (speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychological service, counseling, instructional media, computer instruction, physical education, art instruction, audiology, and behavior management). A sixteen-bed health clinic with registered nurses and staff physicians provides a full range of care. During after school hours, students participated in intramural sports, clubs, cheerleading, and recreation activities planned by the staff.
Building on Our Proud Past to Create the Future
2004 marked OSD’s 175th anniversary. OSD student, faculty and staff, alumni, and other stakeholders celebrated the event with an assembly and erection of an engraved bronze historical marker on the grounds in the area known as Alumni Park. Agnes, the name of the statue which originally graced the massive fountain at the 1868 school, stood nearby and “nodded” her approval. As the 21st Century got underway, it’s natural to consider the future of Ohio’s residential school for the deaf and to engage in a process to assure its continued existence for students well into this century.
As we look back in history, we recognize that the political and social pressures present in 1829 demanded that Ohio’s young government assure that its citizens, all of its citizens, could contribute to its economy and the common good. That meant promoting job skills and nurturing the capacity for citizenship and leadership. Education was the path. Deaf citizens deserved no less and, in fact, became among Ohio’s best resources.
We can visualize that 1829 classroom - three deaf students in a rented building with their teacher/superintendent seated around a wood stove for heat; their teacher used the sign language learned from France to discuss the concepts of the day – agriculture, use of money and banking principles, the system of locks along Ohio’s canals, anti-slavery writings, the newly invented gas lights, and even religion. The teacher often wrote on slate and students shared the few books that were available at the time.
Through the years OSD changed and grew, meeting the challenges of each new era and each new generation of students. Community leaders built a large, new school on a lovely campus. The superintendent hired and trained more teachers. More courses and vocational training were added. The curriculum was revised several times and eventually included college preparatory coursework. The controversy about oralism and manualism prevailed. Modern inventions made the school more comfortable over time. Student organizations were developed to nurture leadership skills and a social conscience. Those who attended or graduated from OSD organized themselves into the Alumni Association and supported OSD along the way.
Preparing for the Future
OSD’s proud past prepares us for the future. What challenges will OSD graduates face in 2029, the 200th Anniversary of OSD’s founding? What will our graduates need to know to contribute to Ohio’s and America’s economy and security? What skills must they learn to be employed, support themselves and their own families, and help others? How can Ohio’s deaf students prepare themselves to provide leadership in our state, our nation, and the world? With world events happening dramatically and technology changing almost too fast to absorb, how does OSD prepare for its role in the 21st Century?
STRATEGIC PLANNING AND TREND FORECASTING: OSD is committed to the daily application of Baldrige business practices to strive for excellence and ongoing strategic planning involving alumni, business, other education, and agency partners as we look forward, share resources, and review OSD’s progress accurately. Tighter state budgets require working together, visionary thinking, establishing priorities, and safeguarding the flexibility that is necessary to adapt to changing needs. The OSD Strategic Planning Committee, comprised of OSD’s administration, faculty and staff representatives, Alumni members, parents, and community representatives examine trends to forecast OSD’s future needs.
Social, medical/technology, and political pressures: Perhaps the most dramatic event confounding deaf education in the latter part of the last century is the invention of the cochlear implant. It is a double-edge sword that has divided the field of deaf education even further. Cochlear implant surgeries may provide increased auditory stimulation even to the extent that some deaf children can acquire spoken English more easily, even fluently; however, it is not a panacea – results vary greatly and the delays and frustrations caused while parents wait on the oral/aural outcomes can do irreparable damage to the long term success of the deaf child. Many parents, schools, medically-related programs, and even governmental officials see cochlear implants as the easy alternative, not requiring expensive interpreters, special schools, or learning a new language and culture. Some experts estimate that 1/3 of all deaf children will have cochlear implants by the year 2010.
What is the effect on public schools and on OSD? How does OSD provide correct information about cochlear implants to others and respond when a student joins OSD after a surgery that hasn’t had successful results? What role does OSD have to support students who have cochlear implants and how do we balance our respect and value for ASL and Deaf culture with the development of spoken language skills in this part of the student population?
In addition, there is a changing student population that is apparent at OSD and in hearing schools across the state, which serve deaf and hard of hearing children. Medical advances now allow an increased number of critically at-risk infants and toddlers to survive, but with additional physical, behavioral, and mental challenges. Therefore the resources of all schools are stretched to meet the unique needs of every child, regardless of learning and behavioral difficulties or physical limitations. The effects of parental smoking, drug/alcohol use, poor nutrition, stress and other factors affect the child’s development. While some students are gifted, capable of advanced learning or demonstrating special talents, others have needs that can disrupt education.
How does OSD prepare to meet the needs of such a diverse student population?
Legal Requirements: Among the new challenges facing OSD are federal laws, specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which along with newly created state laws, have mandated accountability. First, all schools must evaluate and report student success on standardized achievement tests, along with other data. Students with disabilities must be included in the data, both as part of the whole group and as a separate group. While a very small percentage of students (<2%) may take alternate assessments (rather than the state’s proficiency tests) to demonstrate their students’ level of success, generally speaking, deaf and hard-of-hearing students must take and pass Ohio’s proficiency tests which are given a intervals in the elementary, middle school, and high school grade level bands. These legal requirements caused OSD to focus efforts since 2001 on aligning our curriculum with the state’s standards for language arts, math, science, and social studies, in particular. Technology, fine arts, and foreign language are the next areas for alignment. This means that students must have on grade level instruction and testing despite an individual student’s present level of performance. Deaf and hard of hearing students who do not have early access to language tend to lag behind their hearing peers by several grade levels.
How does OSD provide instruction to students on grade level who are in the process of being immersed in language, maybe for the first time in their school career?
The concept of Least Restrictive Environment has been around since 1975 when the landmark PL 94-142 was enacted. Some experts in deaf education acknowledge that what seemed like a natural concept, involving students with disabilities in educational options closest to home and through interactions with students without disabilities, may be wrongly applied to the unique population of deaf students. Deaf students are rare in most school districts. Offering them local programming without access to peers and teachers with whom they can communicate directly feels more restrictive. In the early 2000’s the social pressure and legal mandates to provide an educational program closest to home is still real.
How does OSD offer bridges to deaf students statewide to enable them to have contact with a full, rich language environment if experts in language development, communication access, and specialized techniques are not present where they attend school?
Technology: Palm pilots, Internet, “Sidekick” cell communication devices, videophones, interactive video distance learning (IVDL), “virtual scenarios”….the list goes on and on about the new technology that amazes and confounds us in education. Deaf students benefit greatly from these advances which also minimize the distances between themselves and others. OSD currently has a computer lab for group learning and computer application, but, more importantly, computer technology is available everywhere for their learning. Every classroom has multiple units all connected to the Internet. OSD offers professional development to others, including teachers and educational interpreters, through its Interactive Video Distance Learning (IVDL) program; ASL classes are available to hearing schools through IDVL connections with an OSD instructor. Teachers use SmartBoards™ and Moodle sites to enhance instruction through technology and the Internet and to promote on-line learning venues. Staff members have instant communication with each other which assists in maintaining student safety, assuring that daily activities happen smoothly, and giving deaf staff equal access to information. The Virtual Reality Education for Assisted Learning (VREAL) allows students to travel to unknown situations safely, applying knowledge along the way, as their hearing peers in OSD partner schools do too. OSD’s website (www.ohioschoolforthedeaf.org) allows others to learn about our school but also provides links to information about deafness. Our website continues to keep our Alumni and parents informed about upcoming events, athletics, our needs, and current initiatives. Our Strategic Planning Committee will be alert for further opportunities to use technology to help our students and other deaf students statewide.
How does OSD stay ahead of the wave of technology changes to maximize opportunities for our students and deaf and hard of hearing students, their families, teachers, and educational interpreters?
Transportation: Despite the inherent dangers in today’s world, OSD’s partnership with the Magarotto School for the Deaf in Rome, Italy remains strong. The Ohio School for the Deaf has already influenced deaf education in Italy, strengthening the role of the central school and promoting use of Italian Sign Language across the nation. Through technology, students and staff work on joint projects. Travel enables the students to learn about a different culture on the other side of the world. With disputes waging around the world, understanding another culture and finding one’s similarities is important to peace and conflict resolution.
Ohio is a large state. Some students travel 3-4 hours one way to attend school at OSD. Teachers, educational interpreters, audiologists, other specialists and parents often attend workshops or other activities at OSD to increase professional knowledge and skills.
How do we collaborate with others to minimize the costs of travel in terms of time and gasoline to provide educational opportunities for more students and professional development for teachers, interpreters, and others?
Infrastructure of OSD Built in 1953: OSD’s present buildings are nearly 55 years old. Most school buildings are designed with a “life” of 50-60 years before they need to be replaced. Designed to serve students in the “assembly line” school operation that Horace Mann envisioned in the 1830’s, the buildings are no longer functional for students in a world that requires advanced communications, technology, and flexibility. Constant repairs and remodeling do upgrade the facilities to make the campus healthy and safe, serviceable, and pleasant in the short term but they disrupt programming. A look at modern schools around Ohio and new residential schools across the USA points out the limitations that OSD’s current facilities place on student learning. A new school facility would open learning opportunities, promote Student Life programs which are equally important as educational programs, and assure that OSD exists for future generations of deaf and hard of hearing children.
OSD as a Model Demonstration School
The pride of OSDAA’s heritage, its beloved residential school, is in no danger of closing. Recently the Ohio legislature has authorized funding to build a new facility for deaf students, a modern school. OSD exists as a demonstration school, which models the best practices in deaf education through highly qualified teachers and staff for all Ohio schools to emulate. The K-12 program employs deaf and hearing teachers who are proficient in ASL and written English to assure that students have role models for their learning. While chalkboards and acetate sheets on an overhead projector may be giving way to the SmartBoard™, computer technology, and sophisticated software, the strength of solid instruction is within an ever-adapting faculty and staff who can adjust with each new generation of learners. OSD’s newest programs to support our students include:
OSD as a Resource Center
OSD sees its responsibility not only to serve the 160 students currently educated in our classrooms, but also to support deaf and hard of hearing students, their parents, and their teachers across the state. There are about 3000 deaf/hard of hearing students in Ohio’s K-12 schools, with another 341 three- and four-year olds served in public preschool settings; an estimated 1,234 infants and toddlers are expected to be identified as needing further audiological evaluation or intervention through Ohio Universal Infant Hearing Screening program at birthing hospitals. OSD intends to expand the ways we serve as a resource center on deaf education. Current programs include:
Deaf Youngsters, Their Families and Providers: Ohio has a new Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) test that will assure early identification of hearing loss. The laws associated with UNHS require the Ohio Department of Health to follow up with families after identification to assist them in parent education, further hearing testing, possible amplification, and early intervention with the babies and toddlers themselves. Ohio’s state health department has developed protocols for statewide implementation. While deaf and hard of hearing three and four year old youngsters in Ohio attend preschool programs, they are often the only deaf child in the program. Their teachers and parents are not familiar with American Sign Language, the unique learning styles of deaf children, or special techniques to teach pre-reading to deaf children. Most have never met a deaf adult. Many schools, parents, and providers focus on oral strategies because it involves the language that they know without comprehending the possible consequences of their actions for most of the children. It is critical that OSD maintain open communication with early childhood providers to give parents and providers options to include American Sign Language and interaction with deaf adults as those toddlers acquire early skills. Among the programs that OSD established since 2001 to help preschoolers, their families, and teachers:
CLASSROOOM OF THE FUTURE: Maybe we can envision the Ohio School for the Deaf in 2029 on our new campus…Students and teachers in contact with instructors and fellow students from all around the world through the wonder of technology. Sitting in semi-circle on elevated seating within a large, bright “learning center,” students attend to their teachers both on-site and away; students check the visual representations of concepts on one of the large screens in the room and computer-generated, real time captioning depicting translations to English from their instructors in China, South Africa, or Brazil on another screen. The young Spartans respond on individual touch screens and keyboards built into their desks. As school ends, the students use the language that supports their Deaf identity to express excitement about an upcoming performance in the new state of the art auditorium. The New school’s Student Life Centers cluster “brothers and sisters” of varying ages in residence halls, each one named for a Deaf leader in Ohio; their residence hall advisors congratulate older students on a recent school project as younger children pause to listen while playing an old-fashioned board game. Other students arrive from learning environments that are off-campus at the art museum, a local manufacturing industry, or a nearby college. In the Professional Learning Center, public school teachers and others remark about their observations at OSD earlier in the day before joining the students, parents, alumni, and staff at this evening’s Holiday Signfest, a tradition since 1990. Yes, there will snow falling – snow that seems to whisper, “How will Santa arrive THIS year?”
How will we create the New School? Working together — alumni, school administration, faculty and staff, parents, and community — we’ll meet the challenge of teaching the students of the Ohio School for the Deaf in the 21st Century. Superintendent Corbett has established an Advisory Committee to work with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to design the structure and buildings of our “new” school. The Advisory Committee work commences in the Spring of 2007.
An Everlasting Mission
The mission of OSD hasn’t changed much from the charge described by an early superintendent. It lives today and will well into the 21st Century:
So a deaf school takes children who live in darkness, gives them a new home, a new environment, a schooling ending in an education, puts a soul into them and sends them out in the world to repeat their ideal. The school is the fountainhead. The streams emanating from it go hither and thither, only tiny threads of streams, to be sure, but streams of importance that run on and on to an eternity.
We say they are in darkness for they know not language, cannot express their thoughts, are in a sense helpless, until they are touched by the hands of gentle, kind and skilled teachers and staff members who shall guide them into the light.
John William Jones
OSD Superintendent, 1895-1930
The Ohio School for the Deaf was established in 1829 to provide specialized instruction for deaf students. The school’s philosophy of 1953 states that “only through education can the American heritage, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness be enjoyed by all segments of this and succeeding generations. And that every child, irrespective of individual differences and all other considerations, may as a birthright expect every opportunity for total personality development.” This belief will carry the work of the Ohio School for the Deaf into the Twenty-First Century.
"Buildling on Tradition to Prepare for the Future"
- Janet Gordon, Ohio School for the Deaf Principal 1985-2000
revised: March 2, 2007