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American Annals of the Deaf

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Assessing Deaf Adults: Critical Issues in Testing and Evaluation

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Deaf and hard of hearing persons can and should be held to the same high standards as hearing persons—whether for school or college examinations or for professional licensure and certification. However, an equally essential consideration is that while the standards should be equivalent, the means of assessment must be equitable. Therefore, in an effort to enhance equity and access, formal measurements of professional expertise must address specific variables that affect the development and experiences of deaf and hard of hearing people. Local, state, and federal agencies that use such assessment results to make important judgments about deaf individuals must be well trained in the appropriate administration and interpretation of assessments.

In this sense, the stakes are high for everyone—for deaf and hard of hearing persons in terms of the decisions that will be made about their lives as a result of any assessments and for decision-makers in terms of being able to make fair and defensible decisions in a highly complex domain.


In 1987, the National Task Force on Equity in Testing Deaf Teachers was initiated and headquartered at Gallaudet University. The focus at the time was on advocating for fair testing of deaf candidates for teacher certification in an era when the field of deaf education had a re-awakening of interest and awareness of the need for more deaf and hard of hearing teachers. Some serious barriers were beginning to be experienced nationally, which persist to the time of writing this book. Several cases were addressed by the task force, and individuals were advised as to appropriate actions to take; in addition, some state agencies were advised on appropriate accommodations to make. By the mid-1990s, the task force realized that problems of licensure for deaf persons were not limited to the teaching profession, as more and more deaf adults began to seek careers in a broader range of professions. Thus, the task force broadened its title to the National Task Force on Equity in Testing Deaf Professionals. Several national position statements were developed by the task force, and it continued to advise both states and individuals on proper ways to proceed in the case of apparent inequities.

By the year 2000, the significant increase in the implementation of high-stakes testing in schools indicated that still another broadening of mission would be appropriate. As a result, the task force changed its name again to its present title of the National Task Force on Equity in Testing Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals. Membership is open to all who are interested and includes a broad array of representatives from various fields, including education, occupational therapy, psychology, the law, and others. Entities represented include schools, programs, and postsecondary institutions that teach deaf and hard of hearing individuals, the Educational Testing Service, the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, the National Therapeutic Recreation Association, the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University, and the Governor’s Office of Disabilities for the State of Maryland. In recent years, guests and attendees at thrice-yearly meetings have included attorneys from the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Association of Social Work Boards, and testing companies such as Harcourt and Measured Progress.

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