Late February 2018
Schools and teachers have recently been held accountable for the progress made by each and every student. Many state departments of education and districts have defined the accommodations that can be provided to students with special needs so that fair access, but no unfair advantage is provided.
With only 1:100 IEPs for students eligible for specialized instruction due to hearing loss, the access issues secondary to being deaf or hard of hearing are often unrecognized or minimized. The unique needs of students with hearing loss may not be thoroughly recognized in the administrative testing policies, requiring us to advocate so that students who are DHH are tested fairly for their knowledge, and not their inability to fully perceive the test items.
Test accommodations are changes made in the test presentation or response method so that students can demonstrate what they know about the content without changing the content of what is intended to be measured. Valid accommodations produce scores for students with disabilities that measure the same attributes as standard assessments measured in non-disabled students.
The purpose of accommodations is to ‘level the playing field’, thereby improving access to the material presented in instruction and to ensure accurate assessment of student knowledge of the test material. Many students use accommodations that are commonly used by other students with special needs, such as extended time, and also use accommodations that fit the unique communication and learning needs of this population. Standardized, high-stakes testing presumes a certain level of English proficiency that is not necessarily appropriate for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. High-stakes tests have a highly verbal aspect, therefore, students with restricted language skills are at a distinct disadvantage. When expressive and receptive language levels and modalities used by students with hearing loss are considered, and how these may differ significantly from those of English-based hearing students, the need for accommodations becomes even more apparent. Reading is auditorilly based and learning to read at the same rate and to the same level of peers is often challenging. Students who are deaf/hard of hearing may be one or more years delayed in reading as compared to their typically hearing classmates. Often, decisions about what accommodations are necessary are made by IEP team members without an adequate understanding of, or training in, the impact of hearing loss on interaction and performance.