Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Professional Development for Teachers of Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Facing the Assessment Challenge

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Professional Development for Teachers of Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Facing the Assessment Challenge

Article excerpt

Teachers of students with low-incidence disabilities, such as students who are deaf or hard of hearing, face unique challenges in putting education policy into practice. The present article presents professional development findings from the Third Annual National Survey of Accommodations and Assessment for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Cawthon, Hersh, Kim, & Online Research Lab, in press). A total of 391 participants described professional development they had experienced related to assessment of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Teachers reported greater exposure to topics in school/district sessions and discussion with their colleagues than in their preparation programs. Teaching at a school for the deaf or teaching students in high school were significant predictors of an increased prevalence of professional development opportunities on assessment-related topics for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

After decades of exclusion from public education, students with disabilities in the United States now have rights to educational opportunities that include high expectations and yet are tailored to meet their individual needs. This shift is a result of key federal legisla- tion as well as a changing perception of students with disabilities as individ- uals who have the right to a quality education. Students are served by a range of professionals, including those with and without specialized training in the instruction of students with dis- abilities. Teachers of students with low- incidence disabilities, those disabilities found relatively infrequently in the student population, face unique chal- lenges in translating education policy into sound practice for their students. Low-incidence disabilities embrace a broad range of categories, including autism, deafblindness, deafness, and traumatic brain injury. There are very few teacher preparation programs in the United States that provide preservice training with students with lowincidence disabilities. As a result, teachers often learn specific strategies on the job or through professional development programs in their work setting.

Large-scale, standardized assessment of student knowledge and skills is a tenet of current accountability reform measures. Many students with disabilities, including low-incidence disabilities, have the support of one or more accommodations when they participate in standardized assessments. Students who are deaf or hard of hearing, in particular, use a range of accommodations, including extended time, separate setting, American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation of directions or test items, test items read aloud to students, students' use of ASL in their responses, or a version of the test in simplified English (Cawthon, in press; Cawthon & Online Research Lab, 2006). Teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing express a need for additional resources and assistance in making decisions about accommodations for their students, particularly on large-scale, standardized assessments (Cawthon, in press; Cawthon & Online Research Lab, 2006; Luckner & Bowen, 2006). This is particularly true of teachers who did not receive adequate training in their initial teacher preparation programs.

The present article describes the kinds of professional development opportunities available to teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing in their current school settings. The findings draw from the Third Annual National Suiwey of Accommodations and Assessment for Students Who .Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Cawthon, Hersh, Kim, & Online Research Lab, in press). The study is thus situated within the context of issues related to education policy guiding the assessment of students with disabilities, student demographics, educational settings where students who are deaf or hard of hearing attend school, and professional development opportunities for teachers who educate these students. I first cover each of these areas in further detail and provide a summary of current research in the field. …

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