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February 6, 2003

Senior named Intel finalist for her research on deaf students

From: Nassau Herald, NY - 06 Feb 2003

By KAREN RICE February 06, 2003
Lawrence High School senior Casey Ann Vaughn, 17, has always been interested in deaf culture and deaf learning. When she read an article in a journal called American Annals of the Deaf at one of Hofstra University's libraries, she knew she had found a great idea for her Intel science research project.
The article stated that deaf students had lower math scores than children with hearing but didn't say why, because no formal study had ever been done. Vaughn decided to try to find out what caused the lower test scores. She completed some amazing research and, along with 39 other high school seniors around the nation, was named a finalist in the 62nd annual Intel Science Talent Search, often referred to as the junior Nobel Prize.
For three years Vaughn did research, made calls, cut through red tape and overcame bumps in the road to see her project through to completion. Through connections she developed as a student in Lawrence Public Schools and as an active member of her church, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Inwood, Vaughn gained permission to test about 60 second- and third-graders, 40 hearing students from Lawrence Public Schools' Number Two School in Inwood and 20 deaf students from around Long Island. The test contained three parts: reading comprehension, arithmetic and verbal word problems.
I've had an interest in deaf culture and learning for a while, Vaughn said. And when I read that deaf students don't do as well in math I just didn't think that was right.
After a great deal of hard work, Vaughn, daughter of Kathy and Michael Vaughn of Inwood, discovered that the notion that deaf children don't perform as well as hearing students in math was wrong. Deaf students score comparably on simple arithmetic but have difficulty with reading comprehension, which interferes with full understanding of math word problems, according to Vaughn's project, Deaf, not Dumb: Dispelling the Myth of the Apparent Mathematics Deficit' Among Deaf Students.
I discovered that deaf children do just as well, if not better, on basic math but have trouble with math word problems, Vaughn said. Deaf children, in general, have trouble with reading comprehension and those two things are related. The reading is the challenge for them, not the math.
Vaughn now hopes that her project will gain more attention and potentially help more students. I hope my project gets more publicity now, she said. Many teachers [of the deaf] may already be familiar with my findings, but the material is still not there to give [deaf students] an equal education. They need to be taught in a different way. They have the math skills. They need help with math word problems.
This year's finalists were announced Wednesday, Jan. 29, on Intel's Web site. The contest, formerly known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, selected 300 semifinalists from 1,581 applicants from around the country. Four of the semifinalists came from Hewlett High School and three, including Vaughn, from Lawrence High School. Each semifinalist received a $1,000 scholarship, and the school receives a matching $1,000 grant.
Forty finalists were then selected for an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. March 6-11, each receiving a laptop computer and a minimum scholarship of $5,000 as well. In Washington the finalists will attend the Science Talent Institute, where they will compete for college scholarships totaling more than $500,000, with a $100,000 top prize.
Vaughn has a long list of other honors and activities. She became fluent in American sign language in the course of her research and started the Sign Language Club at Lawrence High School. She is an editor of the yearbook, a member of the National Honor Society, an AP scholar, a National Merit Commended Student, a volunteer for the Rock and Wrap it Up! hunger-relief organization and a member of the Key Club. She is interested in Washington, Cornell and Johns Hopkins universities, and plans to study biology and go on to medical school.
Vaughn was assisted in her research by Elaine Farran, district curriculum director for social studies, and teachers Stephen Sullivan, Anita Minor, Marge Harrison and Joseph Scott.
Sullivan said he is just thrilled with Vaughn's placement as a finalist and would like to see her project gain national recognition so she can help as many students as possible. Casey is such a great kid, he said. She has no pretense about her. And what she found is important. Her work will be given a start Ñ a stamp of approval [from Intel] Ñ that might allow her to make a difference. I think her work deserves to be mainstream.
Sullivan added that he thinks Vaughn has a good shot at some of the top scholarship prizes, although he doesn't know what Intel will be looking for this year, but he is already very proud of Vaughn's many accomplishments. I think she will do well because she is a bright young lady, he said. But really, she has already accomplished so much.
Lawrence High School Principal Dr. Steven Kussin said he is also very proud of Vaughn for her hard work, and added that he wanted to thank Wayne Seyfert, the retiring project coordinator, and Sullivan for their help in making the science and social studies programs so successful.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Rosenbaum agreed that Vaughn's achievement and the high school programs are a source of pride for us all.

©Herald Community 2003