PARCC releases additional guidance on ELL, special education students

A new manual and online brochures explain accessibility features of the assessment system.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two assessment consortia developing next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, has released a manual detailing how students with disabilities and English language learners will be accommodated in the computer-based assessment.

Diane August, member of the PARCC Technical Working Group, said that by assessing on computer devices, PARCC states will now have the opportunity to provide student with tools they frequently use in the classroom and daily life. “Many features that were once considered accommodations are now available for all students through the online delivery platform and the commitment to universal design principles,” said August.

The majority of the proposed accommodations policies are currently in use across PARCC states. What is different from many current state accommodations manuals, however, is that the manual includes not only proposed participation and accommodations policies for students with disabilities and English learners, but also information about tools that will be provided through PARCC’s computer-based assessment delivery system for all students.

(Next page: Reaction to the manual)“Although the accessibility features available on the PARCC Assessments are based on universal design principles as applied to assessments, and are intended to increase access for most students, many students with disabilities may need additional accommodations when taking the PARCC assessments,” the manual notes.

“Concerns for English learners and their diverse needs were taken into account since I have been involved with this process,” said Gary Cook, a member of the PARCC Technical Working Group for English learners and an associate research scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Cook noted that decisions were based on current research in the English language learners field.

“These brochures will be a great resource for parents and teachers,” said Otha Thornton, National PTA president. Thornton added that the release will “allow parents and teachers of these children access to the quality information they need to make decisions about improving learning outcomes.”

“The brochures will help parents and teachers become informed participants in the critical conversations that will be held in states and districts,” said Joanne Cashman, director of the IDEA Partnership at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. PARCC will also release brochures for parents and teachers of English learners later this year.

On January 16, 2013, PARCC initially released two draft accommodations policies for public comment, the reading access accommodation and the calculator use accommodation. On February 8, PARCC released the draft accommodations policy for writing access. Between April 18 and May 13, 2013, PARCC released the draft manual for a public comment period. These comments drove the many changes that were made to the document before the first addition was approved by the PARCC Governing Board on June 26, 2013.

In fall 2013, PARCC will release full administrative guidance in support of the policies released today. These guidelines are designed by the states with input from leading experts and will support states and districts in the implementation of the policies. Additional policy and guidance on assistive technology is also in development.

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