Late April 2018
The U.S. Department of Education gives each State the right to determine what constitutes adequate yearly progress (AYP) based on that State’s final assessment system. Instruction must be rigorous enough to demonstrate “continuous and substantial” yearly progress. High-stakes standardized testing is one measure of school achievement and competency. At the least, the results of this testing can determine whether accommodations have been successful, and services have been effective in preventing a widening achievement gap. At most, results can determine whether a student is promoted to the next grade or graduates. Though high-stakes testing is one measure of academic achievement, it cannot be the only source of data used to determine whether a student has made substantial gains toward AYP. With the weight of these considerations at stake, it is no wonder parents, students, and teachers may feel pressured by the impact of these tests.
The number of students who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) served in the general education setting continues to grow. However, these students still lag behind their hearing peers, specifically in language and reading, secondary to the impact of hearing loss. This has made the need for appropriate supports and services by personnel with highly specialized skills and knowledge a critical factor for success. Under IDEA, states must use information about the performance of children with disabilities in state and district-wide assessment programs to revise their State Improvement Plans, as needed, to improve their performance.
Educators cannot wait until the end of year to determine if teaching practices, accommodations, and services have been effective. Progress monitoring is critical.
Disadvantages of High-Stakes Testing for Students with Hearing Loss
- Results of high-stakes testing may underestimate a student’s actual skill and abilities. Students who are DHH, especially those included in a general education setting, are often at a disadvantage during high-stakes testing due to their limited knowledge of the language style and structure of the tests. Tests use phrasing, grammar, and syntax that differs from everyday English, often including idioms, multiple meaning words, and complex grammar that is unnecessary to comprehension of text. For a student with an interpreter, the interpreter may account for the student’s language ability and modify communication to assist comprehension. If familiar presentation of the language is not used during high-stakes testing, the consequence is an unfair disadvantage when the testing is presented in written form.
- For students who use sign language to communicate, some schools allow only a verbatim interpretation of the test. For a student who receives the accommodation of signed translation for test items and/or questions, the ASL interpreter must now change the communication system to present the test items as they are written.
- Students who are DHH being educated in the general education setting are typically the only student in that classroom with hearing loss. The student’s teacher is likely to be unfamiliar with the effects that hearing loss can have on equity of test results in comparison to typically hearing peers.