Johnson, E., Kimball, K., & Brown, S. O. (2001). American Sign Language as an accommodation during standards-based assessments . Assessment for Effective Intervention , 26 (2), 39–47.

Journal Article

Johnson, E., Kimball, K., & Brown, S. O. (2001). American Sign Language as an accommodation during standards-based assessments. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 26(2), 39–47.


Elementary; Hearing impairment (including deafness); High school; Listening; Math; Middle school; Multiple ages; Signed administration; U.S. context




This study investigated whether the use of American Sign Language (ASL) as an accommodation affects the validity of standards-based assessment. The tests were administered using ASL and Signing Exact English (SEE II).


Eight classrooms of students who are deaf and hard-of-hearing across three grade levels (4, 7, and 10) in the State of Washington (U.S.) participated. The specific number of participants was not reported, and not able to be ascertained from data due to duplicativeness of data points.

Dependent Variable

A listening assessment and mathematics assessment derived from the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) were administered using American Sign Language (ASL) and the Signing Exact English (SEE II) forms. The data generated were not the test scores themselves, but rather the observation of test administrations, as well as informal conversations with teachers after the assessment sessions.


First of all, for the listening assessment, across grade levels, communication in Signing Exact English (SEE II) relayed sufficient information for test-takers to provide correct responses, despite the errors made in the passage presented in SEE II. A similar pattern was observed in the test presented by the American Sign Language (ASL) native speaker—test-takers were given sufficient information to generate correct answers. However, ASL provided by a professional resulted in more errors in presenting information, specifically in the grade 4 test, and for one detail in the grade 7 test. For the mathematics assessment, there were patterns related to the items with multiple-choice responses (compared to open-ended response formats), as well as when data was presented in graphs, meaning many inaccuracies in test item interpretation and resulting in fewer correct answers. A common theme across test content was that ASL interpreters' higher amount of experience was related to test-takers' higher scores. The authors provide a set of suggestions for improving use of sign language as an accommodation.