One Year’s Growth in One Year,
Expect No Less
by Cheryl DeConde Johnson, Ed.D., Supervisor, Exceptional Student Services, Colorado Department of Education, Hands & Voices Board President
Many teachers and professionals in deaf education have lamented the unfairness of statewide testing for students who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH). Claiming that the tests unfairly judge abilities due to language barriers, teachers have called for alternative measures of know-ledge and skills to alleviate the often-reported, self-defeating, and frustrating test experience of the students. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements have further complicated this picture as special education students continue to impact schools' AYP status.
At the Colorado Department of Education, we have been able to track performance of students who are DHH on our Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) since its inception in 1999. The data analysis (years 2001-05) has shown a small but steady decline in the numbers of students performing in the unsatisfactory (lowest) level and a commensurate increase in the other levels (partially proficient, proficient, advanced). Out of level testing is not permitted, but some students do participate in the state alternate assessment. In 2005, 828 DHH students in grades three-10 participated in the assessment program, taking the series of tests in reading, writing, math, and science. Of these students, 8.3% took alternate assessments. For students who received "no scores," this outcome was primarily based on parent refusal to participate or the inability of the student to sufficiently complete the test for scoring.
While there has been dialogue regarding the low performance and the inability of students to make progress, Colorado data indicates that students are doing better. Rather than dwelling on where the student is performing, we are now promoting the 1:1 rule. The rule states that every student should be making at least one year's growth in one year's time regardless of his or her performance level. We compared each student's 2004 to 2005 scores using category bands to determine growth. If students remained in the same category band, we determined that they made one year's growth; if they performed in a higher band they made more than one year's growth, and if they performed lower, they were identified as not achieving a full year's growth.
We are happy to report that in the reading tests across all grade levels, 40% of our students made one year's growth, 41% made more than one year's growth, and the remaining 19% made less than one year's growth. To summarize, 81% of our students who are deaf and hard of hearing made one year's growth or more in reading from 2004 to 2005. Further analysis showed that this growth trend was comparable across all grade levels.
This analysis offers some insightful observations and discussion:
- Statewide assessments have provided a consistent comparison of the gap in achievement between DHH students and their hearing peers and a means to track efforts to close that gap. DHH students can and should participate in the same statewide assessments as all students. The fact that so many students function in the lowest range of these assessments is our problem to solve and should not be used as an excuse to exclude DHH students from the statewide assessments.
- A growth model, as applied to Colorado test scores, indicates that most DHH students are capable of learning a year's material in a year's time. While growth should be considered in AYP goals, it cannot be used to excuse DHH students from the 2014 goal that all children perform satisfactorily in reading, math, writing, and science. This goal is achievable for DHH students.
- While it is difficult to make up for the impact of late identification, lack of access to language and communication, inadequate services, or poor instruction, most students who are deaf and hard of hearing have the ability, when given the proper support and instruction, to achieve their potential. These standards cannot be sacrificed just because a student is DHH. If children are not making a year's growth, schools must be able to account for the reasons and make changes to instruction and services to increase achievement.
- The new generation of children who are identified early and who receive appropriate early intervention services are now entering our schools. Will the gap close for these children? Colorado's first cohort of children who came under the newborn hearing screening mandate will be taking the CSAP for the first time as third graders this year. It will be interesting to review the data.
The Colorado Department of Education is continuing to analyze the growth in the areas of math and writing and plans to formally report on the CSAP data and the demographic and service variables that might be accounting for the variability in student performance in the near future. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has provided the needed accountability to improve outcomes for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Now, states and school districts need to use this wealth of data to justify a menu of quality services, including better programs and instruction, that provide each student full communication access to their educational environment. Then we can achieve the 2014 goals of NCLB.