Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

From the Margins to the Spotlight Diverse Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Populations and Standardized Assessment Accessibility

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

From the Margins to the Spotlight Diverse Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Populations and Standardized Assessment Accessibility

Article excerpt

Designing assessments and tests is one of the more challenging aspects of creating an accessible learning environment for students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH). Standardized assessment, in particular, raises important questions about the purpose, content, and meaning of test scores across diverse populations (Abedi, 2006; Cawthon, Leppo, Carr, & Kopriva, 2013; Elliott & Roach, 2007). Unique to largescale, standardized assessment in both school and clinical settings is a strong adherence to measurement principles that allow individuals and systems to make inferences about the resulting test scores (Mislevy, 1994). However, it is largely recognized that there can be a mismatch between student characteristics and the format and structure of standardized assessments: the challenge of square pegs and round holes (Shaftel, Yang, Glasnapp, & Poggio, 2005). Creating accessible assessments involves targeting test features that may be barriers for students who are DHH, including those who are deaf with disabilities (DWD). The purpose of the present article is to provide a discussion of theories, research, and practice in the area of accessible standardized assessment for students who are DWD. While there is relatively little specific literature addressing these issues compared with assessment for general education students, I seek in this article to draw upon ideas and findings from related fields to conceptualize what is known, and what is not known, about accessible assessment for this population.

Theories and Conceptual Frameworks

Theories and conceptual frameworks related to accessible assessment draw from the fields of measurement, test design, social justice, and special education, to name a few. There is no one theory that guides practice in accessible assessment, which results in somewhat separate research domains. While the relevant theories may seem disparate, I will explore underlying assumptions relating to how these theories drive thinking in the field about accessible assessment for the DWD population, the objective of this exploration being to help synthesize them into a more coherent whole.

Test Score Validity

Valid test scores are of paramount importance when standardized assessments are being developed and implemented (Messick, 1989). Standardized assessments call for individualized scores to be comparable so that it can be possible to consistently infer what scores mean across individuals and groups. Standardization, or equivalence, is how professionals use test scores to make appropriate judgments about student learning, bases for referrals, or other outcomes. This information is then used to make a wide range of inferences, such as level of instructional quality, evidence of a potential learning disability, or the effectiveness of an intervention.

Creating accessible assessments often includes thinking about changing the format or structure of the test. For students who are DWD, this may mean drawing upon any one of a range of options, such as provision of the test in sign language (or a sign system), extended time, the addition of pictures, simplification of the English text, or other methods of ensuring equal access to information about the task (Cawthon & Online Research Lab, 2006). Concerns about validity call for what are sometimes seen as rigid policies regarding changes to the test or, perhaps more frequently, the use of scores from tests taken under different conditions (Mitchell & Cawthon, in press). If changes are deemed to alter the construct being measured, test scores cannot be considered standardized, and thus cannot be used in the same manner as scores of test takers as a whole.

Differential Boost

The accessibility of assessment can be challenging to measure. One idea that has been a part of much of the research in this field is differential boost (Elliott, Kettler, Beddow, & Kurz, 2011; L. S. Fuchs, D. Fuchs, Eaton, Hamlett, & Karns, 2000). …

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