Understanding the Importance and Benefits of the Three-Year Re-Evaluation Process for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students

The issue

Students who qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be re-evaluated every three years to maintain eligibility for continued services. For students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH), this re-evaluation process may appear redundant and an inefficient use of teacher and student time. Many Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams decide that re-evaluation is unnecessary because the student’s hearing level has not changed and/or their academic performance is below that of their hearing peers, thus necessitating continued special education services. Some teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing (TODHHs), parents, and educators also feel that re-evaluation adds to the already high number of assessments in school and reduces instructional time that is critical given the academic challenges that many DHH students face. Despite concerns about re-evaluation, understanding the importance and benefits of the process is vital.

What we know

Evaluations are conducted to collect and interpret information to make decisions that will be beneficial to a student’s overall success in school. Parents can request a re-evaluation at least once per year, but one must occur at least every three years, or the IEP team must provide documentation for why one is not necessary. Re-evaluation meetings can be combined with IEP meetings to reduce required meeting time.

Re-evaluations are an excellent opportunity to use longitudinal assessment data (i.e., 3 years vs. annual results) to make overall educational recommendations. During transition periods (from primary to intermediate elementary; elementary to middle school; middle to high school; high school to post-secondary) re-evaluations can assist the IEP team (TODHH, teachers, parents, administrators, specialists, students, educational assistants, etc.) in making informed decisions based on a student’s overall performance.

Re-evaluations provide the chance to stop and reflect on the student’s performance in the current educational setting, how well the accommodations are working, new assistive technology that may be beneficial in various school environments, monitoring progress of the student’s goals and objectives, and the effectiveness of the current communication plan.

Re-evaluation allows for two methods of assessing progress. One involves comparing the student’s progress to peers in their primary setting. The other compares the progress to their assessed capabilities.

Re-evaluations provide documentation of student progress by reviewing data from a variety of sources (classroom observations, information from parents, teacher feedback, standardized assessments, state and district-wide assessments, informal and classroom-based assessments, language samples, audiograms, report card information, behavioral records, etc.). Progress monitoring of specific skills related to goals and objectives on the IEP can be accomplished by documenting informal and classroom-based assessment results. Three-year time spans across multiple goals and objectives in multiple school settings and years of development may help the IEP team determine additional areas of need and/or eligibility for increased/decreased services.

Utilizing the results of standardized assessments that are normed on hearing students with those who are DHH should be done with caution. Modifications and/or accommodations made during the testing session, task interpretation, and proper communication match between the assessor and the student are all variables that affect the validity of the results. Decisions regarding re-evaluations should be based on information from a variety of sources, as described above, with professionals who understand the issues surrounding assessment of DHH students.

What we don’t know

What are the best assessment tools to determine the needs of students who are DHH and whose home language is not English or American Sign Language? How do we account for cultural bias within assessments?

How do we ensure proper communication matches between assessors and students? What qualifications do we use to determine if the assessor is proficient in the student’s preferred mode of communication/language?

How do we empower TODHH to use assessment results to document the need for their specialized services and the diversity of the DHH student population?


Re-evaluations should be conducted through strategic collaboration among the IEP team by collecting information from parents and a variety of sources to reduce the amount of disruption of instructional time in the classroom. With the critical shortage of TODHH in many districts and regions (especially those more rural) it is vital to document the importance of the specialized services that only trained TODHH can provide. Many TODHH and parents are working with supervisors and systems that do not fully understand the diverse and critical needs of DHH students. Re-evaluations are an opportunity to document why the specialized skills of TODHH are necessary in conjunction with (not replaced by) others in the field (e.g., Speech and Language Pathologists, educational assistants, interpreters).

Posted on April 4, 2017 by
Joanna E. Cannon
The University of British Columbia
joanna.cannon {at} ubc.ca


Further reading