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American Annals of the Deaf

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Testing Deaf Students in an Age of Accountability

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The discussion with respect to accommodations for instruction and assessment should be frequent and should occur at various levels within the educational system. In Delaware, these discussions occur at the state, local, and building level on at least an annual basis. At the building level, the first order of business related to accommodations is to discuss the decision-making process. We have approached this task in a number of ways—the most common format being discussion during faculty meetings and professional development days, accompanied by written information. Information includes general guidelines for making decisions. The following excerpt describes one such process:

When Making Decisions About Accommodations . . .
. Think about what happens during instruction.
. Think about the student as a learner.
. Determine how a student can demonstrate the knowledge and skills being evaluated.
. Consider the test constructs.
. Identify the minimal accommodations needed for the student to learn and/or demonstrate knowledge and skills in area being assessed.

Additionally, DSD provides ongoing training related to making decisions about accommodations during instruction and test administration. Faculty and staff members have worked collaboratively with school administration to develop technical assistance documents such as the “DSD Accommodations Tip Sheet” (see Example 10.2), which provides lists of commonly used accommodations and indicates for which students these accommodations might be appropriate.

On a state level, DSD’s role in shaping practices related to testing and accommodations for deaf students has involved participation in the following areas:

. DSTP Disability Task Force that makes recommendations with respect to allowable accommodations
. DSTP test item development
. Delaware Department of Education Bias Review Committee
. Research on the effect of testing accommodations
. Advocacy for accommodations that address the unique language learning needs of deaf students need to be investigated/researched


Student demographic variables such as those mentioned earlier, combined with students’ prior achievement and schooling experiences and instructional background variables, make for a very complex situation when attempting to design an equitable accountability model for deaf students. The general purposes of an accountability system, as outlined by Gong (2002), are as follows:

1. To identify and promote improved educational practices and results
2. To inform stakeholders of the condition of education at the school, district, and state levels and to identify areas in which improvement is needed and success is being achieved
3. To obtain the support of all stakeholders in making the changes needed to enable students to achieve at high levels
4. To inform policy decisions and actions by officials at the local, state and federal levels; by parents, students, members of the community; and by other interested individuals to improve academic performance where needed and reward it where appropriate

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