Including students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in English language proficiency assessments: A review of state policies

This report from the National Center on Educational Outcomes addresses state participation and accommodation policies for English Language Proficiency (ELP) assessments for English language learner (ELL) students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (HH). From the abstract: “Findings from this report indicate that across all domains, Sign Interpret Directions and Amplification Equipment were the least controversial accommodations, with the majority of states allowing their use on all assessment domains. Sign Interpret Questions and Sign Response were consistently prohibited across the majority of states.” The findings from this report show that “states' policies on participation and accommodations on ELP assessments for ELLs who are Deaf/HH have continued to evolve and become more detailed” (p. v). However, there is still room for improvement for states. The authors discuss that States should: continue to evaluate the construct being measured by each domain; evaluate how specific accommodations impact the validity of student scores; re-evaluate controversial accommodations to make sure that the greatest numbers of students have access to the assessment while maintaining the construct being measured; and determine whether and in what circumstances selective participation by domain is appropriate for ELLs who are Deaf/HH.

Content Comments 

The purposes of this document are described well in both the executive summary and the full report. The authors address neither the Common Core State Standards nor assessments aligned to them, which would have been valuable additions to this paper. The methodology is appropriate for the types of conclusions sought. Although this document reviews state policies for inclusion of deaf or hard-of-hearing ELL students in ELP assessments, it does not list the individual states and their policies, limiting its utility. Yet its uniqueness and depth of coverage may still make it a helpful resource, especially for documenting long-term progress on this issue. It may well spur states to provide more policy guidance to school districts and schools, especially for those accommodations where progress is scarce. The tone is appropriate for a report of this nature, and while it does not present evidence of its effectiveness as a resource, it is reasonable to conclude from the content and overall quality that it could possibly have an impact on learning.