PSD’s curriculum is responsive to the needs of students, the talents of staff, the changing world in which we live, and the mandates of national/state agendas. Aligned with the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards, our curriculum is vertically and horizontally articulated to address the knowledge/skills and content in each subject area, across the age/grade levels. Each student has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which reflects the specific curricula skills being targeted each year in the student’s program.

Experiences that promote students’ critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills are central. Effective uses of information technology and opportunities for application are woven into the fabric of educational activities across core academic subjects and through the arts and physical education. Students participate in a variety of group learning settings–individual, small group, and large group–where the focus is on the development of social skills, self-reflection and a sense of individual and group responsibility through interactions with adults and peers

Each area of curriculum is on a 6-year review cycle to ensure alignment with the PA Common Core State Standards and best practices for students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing.

PSD’s Curriculum Policy Link



Our Preschool Program uses The HighScope Preschool Curriculum, which is a comprehensive curriculum resource. Play is at the heart of the active learning curriculum. Children engage in play oriented exploratory activities where they construct knowledge through their interactions with materials, people, events, and ideas. Nurturing adults scaffold children’s learning in this process, providing language models, and encouraging decision making and social interactions.

Curriculum content focuses on eight developmental areas which align readily with the Pennsylvania Common Core Early Learning Standards Daily planning is guided by child interest, students’ communities and ongoing assessment of developmental levels. The eight preschool content areas include:

  • Approaches to Learning
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Development and Health
  • Language and Literacy
  • Communication
  • Mathematics
  • Creative Arts
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Studies

HighScope incorporates teaching strategies for optimal learning and the latest research information on how young children develop and learn. It guides teachers with how to create supportive experiences for young children which include active learning, plan-do-review, daily routines, and a rich, organized learning environment. The home school partnership is recognized as a key component of success and is fostered by using diverse strategies to involve families in their child’s learning, both at home and at school.

Handwriting Without Tears

Our preschool program incorporates the varied learning activities found in the Handwriting Without Tears Pre-K Program into our traditional HighScope schedule. Developing drawing and writing abilities in the early years requires growth in language, cognition, perception, physical development and social/emotional abilities. Handwriting Without Tears uses a variety of developmentally appropriate movement activities and multisensory manipulatives to develop these areas and to teach body awareness, posture and strength; crayon and pencil grip; and letter and number recognition and formation.

American Sign Language

Visual Communication and Sign Language (VCSL) for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children is based on age-typical developmental milestones from birth to age 5. It is standardized based on a national sample of deaf children from signing families and provides the standards of sign language development in young children. The VCSL guides our instructional planning and the development of language goals, as well as provides a mechanism for tracking assessments of each child.

English Phonemic Development

Fee, Fie, Phonemic Awareness is a component of The HighScope Curriculum, and provides strategies for developing phonemic awareness in our preschool children who have auditory access to sound. Students learn to recognize the smaller sound units which make up words through activities focused on sound awareness, rhyming, alliteration, sound to print relationships and letter knowledge. These activities are based on the most recent scientific evidence for developing success and confidence in reading and writing.

Language Arts

PSD uses the Bedrock Literacy Curriculum and Bilingual Grammar Curriculum to build our students’ foundational skills for reading and both English Grammar and American Sign Language (ASL) Grammar, and the Wonders Reading Series as our core curriculum for grade level reading skill development.

Author of the Bedrock Literacy Curriculum, Kristin Anderson Di Perri, Ed.D. developed the Bedrock Literacy Curriculum for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in 2013. De Perri explains that “This curriculum is designed to give teachers of DHH students the foundational building blocks in English necessary for teaching reading and writing fluency. It is intended to teach DHH students ‘how to read and write’ in English. It is designed to align with early levels of the Core Curriculum Standards so that teachers know what to do with individual students.” The Bilingual Grammar Curriculum is co-authored by DiPerri and Todd Czubek, PhD. The BGC is a developmental curriculum that is concept focused. Teachers support their students’ metalinguistic ability to guide them in looking at grammar skills first in ASL and then applying what they have learned to English. In this way, the students are able to talk about what they already use — the various components of a visual language. The BGC uses a developmental approach and is therefore not a grade level guide. Research Links: Bedrock Literacy Research and Bilingual Grammar Curriculum Impact Study

McGraw Hill Education’s  Wonders Reading Curriculum is a comprehensive K-6 ELA/ELD program built on the common core. Through its intentional instruction, inspiring content, and purposeful technology, Wonders prepares students for college and career in the 21st century.  With Wonders, students are exposed to rich texts, along with rigorous instruction

Real OT Solutions:The Size Matters Handwriting Program 

Real OT Solutions is a strong advocate for evidence-based practice. Focus on Size. Form will follow! SMHP is the first instructional program to shift the focus to Letter Size.  When students correct errors in Letter Size, they make an immediate and measurable difference in the consistency, and therefore readability of the written page.  And it’s so easy to teach since there are only three!  That’s why we say, “When it comes to neat printing… SIZE MATTERS!” 

Standards and Related Research: Written-Language_ProductionStandards.pdf, Brain Exercise: Eight Reasons Handwriting is an Essential, 5 Brain-Based Reasons to Teach Handwriting in School


After a rigorous research period, the Math Curriculum Committee has selected Origo Education’s Stepping Stones 2.0 as PSD’s new math materials for grades K-6. Stepping Stones 2.0 is aligned to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and relies on laying foundations in conceptual understanding of mathematics. The highly visual materials in the Stepping Stones 2.0 program will ensure our students rapid development in mathematics and better equip our teachers to support their learning. 

Touch Math is an additional curriculum resource that PSD has to support its students’ learning of foundational numeracy concepts. A growing body of independent, primary and secondary research continues to validate the fundamental principles of the TouchMath system and point to a common conclusion: TouchMath’s multisensory approach and sequential strategy improve student math comprehension and mastery.


PSD’s Elementary Science curriculum is National Geographic Science which is a research-based program that is created for English Language Learners and is designed to align with state science standards used in grades K-5. Students are immersed in the nature of science inquiry and progresses ranging from observations to designing experiments through the grade levels. Each unit is guided by Big Ideas in Life, Physical, and Earth Science with a focus on both science and content literacy. STEM inquiry is addressed in grades K-5. Students have access to Explore on Your Own and the National Geographic Explorer! leveled informational books for each unit, along with writing and math activities that connect to the science content.

Gateway to Science is designed to introduce middle school students to content-area knowledge and skills needed to meet the state requirements for science standards and assessment. Gateway to Science emphasizes content literacy by using vocabulary building pages and textbook formats that allow students to acquire key vocabulary, concepts, and learning strategies. Units focus on Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth Science and provide hands-on opportunities for students to gain scientific understanding through inquiry

Social Studies

We are currently using Harcourt Social Studies Curriculum. The curriculum review and revision process for our Social Studies curriculum is underway to update our Social Studies resources and our alignment to the common core standards and the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework. We are piloting new resources and curriculum and will be making a final determination for new curriculum adoption in Spring 2020. Our main guiding factor is to how to best support our students’ understanding of the world in which they live and to prepare them for their life and life choices beyond the classroom.

Unique Learning System

Unique Learning System is an award-winning, online, standards-based program specifically designed for students with special needs to access the general education curriculum. Unique Learning System provides rigorous materials that are differentiated, allowing each student to participate, learn and grow. 

Special education requires compliance with standards, assessment and meeting the diverse set of cognitive needs. Unique Learning System provides all of the differentiated interactive evidence-based lessons, IEP support, assessments, progress monitoring tools, etc.

Intensive Teaching

Elementary grade classrooms in the Special Education Department subscribe to an Evidence based model developed by the PaTTAN Autism Initiative using the science of Applied Behavioral Analysis with an emphasis on teaching communication through the analysis of Verbal Behavior.  Not to be confused with a primary focus of vocal behavior or speech production, this approach is broad and inclusive of  all forms of language including sign language, written language and picture exchange.  Intensive instructional teaching practices include errorless teaching, fluency training, Natural Environment Training (NET), social skills, and group participation. 

Learning and language milestones are assessed to include making requests (mands), tacts (labeling), imitation, answering questions (intraverbals) and listener response.  Play, early academics, classroom skills, social skills as well as common acquisition barriers are further assessed to address students needs including behavior challenges.  The mand, tact and intraverbal are classified as expressive language. Imitation skills are also taught. Imitation, when verbal at all, is akin to the echoic for ASL, so it is in this context, expressive language while listener response is receptive language.  Procedures build from simple skills to more complex skills. 

Level One:  targeted skills for early learners which include but are not limited to observational/attending skills, context control responses, and following receptive commands all of which include high rates of active responding and delivery of reinforcement on a rich variable delivery schedule. Visual perceptual skills, motor imitation, match to sample, social behavior and play are addressed at this level.

Level Two: targeted skills for intermediate level learners include expansion of level one skills such as listener response by function, feature and class, and intraverbal skills. Routines and group skills are also addressed at this level.

Level Three: acquisition of skills needed for effective instruction in a less restrictive environment are targeted at this level. With basic skills firmly established in levels one and two, advanced level skills are more complex and incorporate reading, writing and math skills.

With the guidance of Board Certified Behavior Analysts with PaTTAN’s Autism Initiative, and an Internal Coach on-site, all staff working with students in this approach receive intensive training and receive up to 14 hours of direct consultation each month. With highly structured classroom organization, comprehensive data collection systems, parent communication and training, and consideration of motivational variables that increase the likelihood of student cooperation are procedures central to our instructional approach. We strive for students to acquire skills and competencies that lead to independence with essential academic, personal, and employment skills.

Thinking Maps

PSD has embarked on our journey of becoming a Thinking Maps school. Thinking Maps are consistent visual patterns linked directly to eight specific thought processes. By visualizing our thinking, we create concrete images of abstract thoughts. These patterns help all students reach higher levels of critical and creative thinking — essential components of 21st Century education. In a school-wide implementation, Thinking Maps establish a consistent Language for Learning.