Implementing Standards, Assessments, and Accountability for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

In 2008, the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University hired edCount to help them establish standards, assessments, and accountability systems necessary to meet new federal requirements. edCount and Clerc Center staff worked together to identify and adopt rigorous standards and assessments to ensure that their students, all of whom are deaf or hard of hearing students, are receiving high-quality instruction and are able to demonstrate what they know and can do. edCount has continued working with the Clerc Center on curricula, professional development, and assessments.

Executive Summary

When the Education of the Deaf Act was reauthorized in 2008, the Clerc Center was faced with the task of choosing and implementing academic standards, standards-based assessments, and an accountability system in its schools for the first time. Like a state, the Clerc Center must ensure and provide evidence that its students are receiving a high-quality education based on challenging content and achievement standards, that they are provided with opportunities each year to demonstrate what they know and can do in relation to these standards, and that the Center itself tracks and reports the degree to which it has succeeded in including all students in this standards-based education.

Because the Clerc Center comprises two small schools serving a specialized population of deaf and hard of hearing students, implementing these pillars of reform poses unique challenges on a number of levels. In bringing standards, assessment, and accountability to its schools, the Clerc Center needs to ensure that these components are implemented in ways that are meaningful and appropriate for its students, while adhering to the principle that all students should be held to the same high standards.

For assistance in translating these general federal mandates into appropriate, sustainable systems at its schools, the Clerc Center turned to edCount. 

edCount’s work with the Clerc Center is truly a partnership, in which the Clerc Center’s administrators’ and staff contribute their knowledge and expertise about serving deaf and hard of hearing students and edCount provides knowledge and expertise about successfully implementing federal policy. We began by helping the Clerc Center to partner with a state to use its standards and assessments and since have provided extensive technical assistance to help the Clerc Center’s practitioners to implement these systems in ways that are both rigorous and meaningful. Our services for this client have included:


  • Choice of a state partner for adopting standards and assessments;
  • Development of standards-based unit summaries in English language arts, mathematics, social studies and science for grades K-12; and
  • Support implementing standards-based curricula, including professional development and instructional resources for teachers.


  • Coordination of test administration training;
  • Administration of a practice assessment in spring 2009 in preparation for official testing starting in 2010; 
  • Evaluation of the 2009 practice administration; 
  • Coordination of data transfer between Clerc Center and testing vendor for assessments starting in 2010;
  • Execution of a standard-setting study to determine cut scores and performance levels for the assessment based on the Clerc Center’s population, at the request of the Center’s state partner; 
  • Selection of student accommodations for assessment, including support for the development of an accommodations manual;
  • Development of technical manuals for annual test administrations;
  • Training and support for the alternate assessment administration; and
  • Production and dissemination of score reports and interpretive guides for individual students, teachers, and parents.


  • Assistance in designing small school accountability indicators; and
  • Evaluating center data systems to ensure they can support accountability and self-evaluation needs.

edCount’s work with the Clerc Center is built around our recognition that holding all students to the same high standards does not entail a ‘one-size fits all’ solution. Rather, successful systems are built on, and reflect, the people and philosophy of the institution in which they are implemented.

Because standards-based instruction and assessment were new for students, teachers and families at the Clerc Center, edCount’s technical assistance has focused not only on implementing these new systems, but on empowering all members of the Clerc Center’s community to embrace these systems with confidence. edCount has involved Clerc Center educators in many of its technical processes – such as choosing the state partner whose standards and assessments the Clerc Center would adopt, and participating in a standard-setting study to determine cut scores for the assessment. We have provided training and resources to teachers and administrators alike to help them administer assessments successfully, and deliver instruction that will prepare their students to demonstrate what they know and can do. The reports and guides edCount has designed for Clerc center families and teachers prioritize accessibility and clarity, and the guides that accompany these reports provide concrete, specific information about what scores do and do not mean about student skill and performance. 

In the process of completing this work, edCount and the Clerc Center have together identified a number of research questions for future study as they continue to work together to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing students are provided with an education that is challenging, appropriate and rigorous.

Read and download the complete Case Study here.