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A team from LACOE's Special Education program for students who are deaf/hard of hearing at Sussman Middle School in Downey has advanced to the finals in Gallaudet University's Battle of the Books competition.

Three students and teacher David Ferrer will head for the first time to Washington, D.C. April 2-5 for the national competition against teams in their reading-level division from the California School for the Deaf, Marie Philip School and Rochester School for the Deaf.

"This is a great opportunity to foster literacy skills and sportsmanship, and better prepare our students for high school," Ferrer said. "They are taking charge of their own learning, developing a deeper understanding of literature and a love of reading."

The rookie Sussman team is the only group in the competition whose students are mainstreamed in the general education setting. Others represent specialized schools for the deaf. Sussman is one of only two mainstream "DHH" programs that have participated in Battle of the Books since 2012.

In the competition, students read required books in advance and then face off against other three-member teams to respond to literal questions and present answers to critical questions about the texts.

"I feel excited," said team captain Diamond Scott. "I've learned a lot about reading, writing and presenting."

Students were selected for the Sussman team based on their good character, academic reports, attendance and results in the preliminary rounds of the contest. Also coaching the team are teachers Esther Han and Koreen Husted.

Gallaudet's Battle of the Books competition for middle school students aims to promote literacy among deaf and hard-of-hearing youth, promote a spirit of academic competition and sportsmanship and encourage critical thinking skills. Learn more about the competition here.

Photo 1: Teachers/coaches (from left) David Ferrer, Esther Han and Koreen Husted with the full Battle of the Books team (from left) -- Jamee Burnett, Savannah Fischer, Leslie Moreno, Gabriela Rocha and Diamond Scott. Ferrer and students Fischer, Rocha and Scott will head to the national competition that involves three-member teams.

Photo 2: Team captain Diamond Scott at a practice for the national Battle of the Books competition.
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