Numerous research articles have been published on the challenges and considerations when it comes to testing deaf and hard of hearing students. For example, in the Journal of Deaf Studies, Qi and Mitchell (2012) write an in depth analysis of academic achievement tests when assessing deaf and hard of hearing children. Section 300.304 of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates appropriate assessments to identify students who may be eligible for special education services and continued evaluations to provide appropriate services and to assess whether the child remains eligible for services. In July 2011, the New Mexico Public Education department released a Technical Evaluation and Assessment manual to support the determination of eligibility for special education services. This manual addresses various areas that may need to be assessed for eligibility and considerations such as cultural and linguistic diversity. In addition to this, the New Mexico Statewide Assessment, PARCC, has guidelines that address accommodations appropriate for deaf and hard of hearing students.
Rationale In the 2003 New Mexico Task Force report on the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth, Toward Brighter Futures, recommended a “communication and language driven educational delivery system in New Mexico.” The Task Force listed 13 key components with “communication and language assessment” at the top. Language development is central to the educational success of any student, indeed at the heart of being human. Language development for deaf and hard of hearing students is of the utmost importance but is significantly missing in the evaluation process. Early and ongoing appropriate assessment of the communication and language needs of children and youth who are deaf or hard of hearing is critical in order to provide parents, guardians, and professionals with accurate data. This information is fundamental to the educational decision-making process. The New Mexico School for the Deaf provides evaluation services to school districts throughout the state in which qualified personnel assess deaf and hard of hearing students for continued eligibility and academic progress. However, only a small percentage of children are evaluated through this system with the majority of classroom and statewide assessments being provided by the Local Education Agencies. During the dialogue of the Task Force, various representatives from school districts stated the need for better understanding and guidance to support them when it comes to considering the testing needs of deaf and hard of hearing students. There are numerous recommended resources available that address the following concepts: 1) Types of academic and psychoeducational assessments that are more appropriate for deaf and hard of hearing students; and 2) Appropriate accommodations and supports that should be considered when testing/assessing deaf and hard of hearing students. This information can be confusing and overwhelming, especially for teachers and support service providers who only work with deaf and hard of hearing students on an occasional basis. It is essential that New Mexico have clear assessment and evaluation standards for ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing students in New Mexico develop the language and academic skills they need to make a successful transition to post-secondary education, employment, or job training. To ensure the quality of instruction and equity of educational opportunities, the state of New Mexico needs to collect data from reliable assessment tools on the progress of all deaf and hard of hearing students that inform instruction, future educational strategies and possibly legislation.
Recommendations The New Mexico Public Education Department, the New Mexico School for the Deaf and representatives from LEAs will:
→ Develop assessment guidelines that provide specific direction/requirements which recognize the various communication modes and language options to ensure proper evaluation of a deaf or hard of hearing student’s:
•Language skill level •Academic skill level •Cognitive/development skill level (formal triennial evaluation tools) 13
New Mexico Task Force for Education for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Children & Youth