New online assessments to include accommodations for students with disabilities

The public review period allows for feedback from a wide group of stakeholders.

One of the two state consortia developing next-generation assessments to be taken online is seeking comments on a draft policy that proposes accommodations for students with disabilities who need help expressing themselves in writing or typing on a computer.

The proposal comes from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a 22-state effort to develop new online assessments in English and math, aligned with the Common Core State Standards, that will test a full range of student performance on skills necessary for college or career readiness.

The draft policy recommends two writing access accommodations—specifically, a scribe and word prediction software—on the English language arts (ELA)/literacy summative assessment for students with disabilities who meet the accommodation eligibility criteria.

Trinell Bowman, who co-chairs the PARCC operational working group on Accessibility, Accommodations, and Fairness, emphasized that these accommodations will give students with disabilities a greater opportunity to show what they know and are able to do on the online assessments.

“The proposed policy continues to build upon PARCC’s commitment to providing access to students with disabilities through the use of various technology resources. In addition, the eligibility criteria will continue to expect the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Team to use measurable data to make informed decisions regarding an individual student’s need, as well as the mode of delivery for the accommodation,” said Bowman, program manager with the Maryland State Department of Education. “The use of technology for these writing access accommodations will greatly assist schools with flexibility and reduce the need for staff members who would otherwise provide these accommodations.”

(Next page: How to give feedback on the proposal)

“The PARCC state leads and experts have given considerable thought and research to the proposed writing access accommodation,” said Tamara Reavis, Achieve’s senior adviser for assessment, accessibility, and equity. “This accommodation, as well as the reading access and calculator use accommodations, will increase accessibility for students. In addition to these policies, PARCC will have a full range of embedded supports for all students, taking full advantage of an online platform.”

The public review period allows for feedback from a wide group of stakeholders, including K-12 educators, curriculum and assessment experts, and interest groups. The draft writing access accommodation policy and survey is posted on the PARCC website for interested parties to provide feedback until Feb. 20.

The feedback will be reviewed by the PARCC state leads and the technical working group for Accessibility, Accommodations, and Fairness, and revisions will be made accordingly.

This is the third accommodation policy PARCC has released for public comment. Earlier this year, PARCC released two draft accommodations policies for public comment, the reading access accommodation and the calculator use accommodation. The entire set of policies will be included in the PARCC Accommodations Manual, which details all accommodations provided to students with disabilities and English language learners. The PARCC Accommodations Manual is expected to be made available for public comment in April.

For more information or to view the policies, click here.

PARCC includes the member states of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

For more news about the new online assessments, see:

Computers seen as ‘unfunded mandate’ as online testing looms

States to launch ‘IT readiness’ tool for common assessments

Tips for making the move to online assessments

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