The U.S. Department of Education has awarded California Lutheran University a $1.2 million grant to prepare teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Beginning in January, the grant will enable CLU’s Graduate School of Education to prepare 48 new credentialed teachers for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in California public schools over the next five years. This high-need student population is increasing dramatically, with a 26 percent jump in the state’s number of students with hearing loss between 2005 and 2011, according to the university, and there is a shortage of teachers prepared to work with them.

CLU launched its program at the Woodland Hills Center in 2007. Candidates earn a preliminary education specialist credential and master’s degree in education of the deaf and hard of hearing.

One of the new project’s goals is to reduce the large achievement gap between hearing students and those with hearing loss, especially those from Latino families. Nearly 55 percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in California are from Latino homes. In Los Angeles County, where the CLU program is based, 78 percent of hearing-impaired students are from homes where Spanish is spoken. Educators are finding that deaf and hard-of-hearing children from Spanish-speaking homes need greater help in learning English language and reading.

As part of CLU’s program, teacher candidates provide free one-on-one spoken language instruction to children at No Limits for Deaf Children, a Culver City-based nonprofit organization that serves a large number of Latino students.

Another goal of the project is to prepare teachers to work with the growing number of children with cochlear implants and digital hearing aids whose families request spoken-language programs in general education settings. Several California school districts, including those in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, are starting new programs for students with cochlear implants and are struggling to find qualified teachers. CLU’s program specializes in using evidence-based best practices in this area and is the only one in California that prepares teachers to work with students older than age 6.

Most of the grant money will be used to help pay for tuition and books for the teacher candidates. Recruiting highly qualified bilingual and bicultural scholars to help meet the needs of Latino students will be a priority. Upon completion, aid recipients will be required to complete four years of service in the field.

Judy Temes