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Accessible Assessments of Disabled Students is Focus of Cawthon-Moderated Panel

By June 7, 2024No Comments


Dr. Stephanie Cawthon joins other education experts at a national conference to discuss ASL as an accommodation — a key issue of assessment accessibility, equity, and fairness for deaf and hard of hearing test takers.

A white woman with long brown hair smiles widely. She's wearing a blue blazer with a coral top and a gem necklace.Joining other top education experts from around the nation, Executive Director Stephanie W. Cawthon, PhD, will be moderating and adding her insights to a panel session at the 2024 National Conference on Student Assessment (NCSA) organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in Seattle on June 24-26.

Each year, NCSA brings together renowned researchers, educators, and professionals to share their knowledge and expertise. Its goal is to foster the exchange of best practices, research findings, and valuable resources to aid U.S. states in implementing high-quality assessments and robust accountability systems, which will lead to better outcomes for all students.

In 2023, Dr. Cawthon gave a highly popular plenary session at NCSA, “Ableism, Accessibility, and Assessment,” which was selected for its timely topic for leadership. (Watch the recording at the 27:54 mark.)

ASL as an Accommodation

The 2024 panel session Dr. Cawthon will moderate and participate in, Coherent Approaches to American Sign Language as an Accommodation on English Language Assessments, is on Tuesday, June 25, of the conference. 

American Sign Language (ASL) as an accommodation is a central part of conversations around assessment accessibility, equity, and fairness for deaf and hard of hearing test takers. However, there is limited research in the field and decisions related to ASL accommodations for English Language Proficiency (ELP) and English Language Assessment (ELA) content are both complex and evolving. 

With the expansion of innovative test item formats, formative assessments, and technology enhanced assessments, questions about ASL accommodations need to adapt to this new context. Other considerations? ASL is a language with unique features, deaf students may be just learning ASL and not have mastery, and cultural context is critical.

About the Panel

For this panel session, Dr. Cawthon will be moderating district, state, consortia, vendor, and research perspectives on current thinking and future possibilities regarding ASL as part of test administration for English constructs. 

The panel will address a range of topics from multiple perspectives including eligibility, policies, technology, administration, professional development, scoring, research, and documentation. They are: 

  • Stephanie W. Cawthon, PhD, Executive Director of the National Disability Center for Student Success and Professor at The University of Texas at Austin (moderator)
  • Cathryn Still, MA, Executive Director of ELPA21 at UCLA CRESST
  • Vitaliy Shyyan, PhD, WIDA Assessment Researcher
  • Leslie Huff, PhD, English Language Proficiency Assessment Coordinator in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Washington
  • Laurene Christensen, PhD, WIDA Director of Accessibility Research
  • Trinell Bowman, MS, Associate Superintendent of Special Education, Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland

About CCSSO 

The organizer of NCSA is the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, the Bureau of Indian Education and the five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions.

By focusing on leading, connecting and influencing education at the national level, CCSSO supports chiefs and their staff with the resources and services they need to create equitable outcomes for all students.

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