Essential accommodations for students with sensory impairments : perceptions from the field

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Knoth, Sharon K.
Harvey, Michael W.
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Thesis (D. Ed.)
Department of Special Education
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This thesis explored standardized assessment practices and analyzed accommodations commonly provided to address the unique needs of students with a sensory impairment. Current assessment practices in Indiana result in well below average scores on the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress - Plus (ISTEP+) and the Graduation Qualifying Examination (GQE) for students who have a sensory impairment. Using a mixed-method of qualitative and quantitative processes, the researcher postulated that if assessment processes were equitable for this population of students, their scores should approximate the normal distribution seen in the overall state totals for the total school population; albeit with a slightly lower trajectory. Reasoning being that the overall population of students with a sensory impairment spans from students with high ability to students with multiple disabilities. Through a literature review and meta-analysis on the topic of assessment, surveys and discussions with varied local experts, and interviews with state and national experts in the sensory areas represented, this study sought to establish a framework for accommodating this population of students on standardized assessments. Using descriptive analysis procedures, the various data sets brought forth 25 qualities or practices that the diverse experts agreed should be in place when assessing this population of students. The data reflected a high level of consensus among parents, teachers, state, and national experts regardless of region of state represented. The data also reflected consensus across sensory subgroups (blind, deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing/cochlear implant, and low vision). The research concluded with a modified confirmatory factor analysis of the 25 qualities with the state-dictated permissible accommodations published in the test guidance manual. This analysis revealed less than half of the perceived best practices were in place for the current state-mandated assessment system. Suggestions for improving accommodation options on future assessment procedures and the prospective for further research were offered.