If you've been worried that your special needs child will be left out of the Common Core Assessments, fear not. Nirvi Shah from EdWeek reported today,
"The two groups tasked with developing the common-core assessments have been thinking about students with disabilities from the time they first won the grants from the U.S. Department of Education to design the tests. That’s a sharp departure from what’s been the norm in standardized testing, which has been to consider accommodations for students with disabilities as an afterthought."
The two consortia are working to minimize or eliminate any school to school inconsistencies that currently exist in giving standardized tests to children with IEP's. Carol André, the special education director at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. said,
"In particular, when teachers or proctors are allowed to read portions of a test aloud for students, the way that information is read can vary widely... We had to all but police our own people to be sure they were not giving the kids an unfair advantage or leg up. It was really hard, especially for our younger kids. The adults desperately want them to do well. Suddenly, without even being conscious of it, you may have an adult who’s reading the question and the four answers but they’re doing a little more emphasis on choice C, or the kid is reading the adult’s expression.”
Michael Hock, co-chair of the accessibility and accommodations work group for the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, boasted that the new generation of computerized tests will be able to read words aloud in the same way, in the same voice, from state to state. He added,
“We’re not trying to provide anyone with any kind of advantage—that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Accommodations available on the test include:
- Portions of the test can be magnified right on the screen. No more oversized type on paper tests. Such features also can be turned on and off, so only students for whom they are allowed may access them.
- Individual students will have the ability to highlight or obscure words on the screen (for the science test only)
- Background music or sounds may be played to keep the students calm or focused, (a feature intended for students with attention disorders.)
- Changing the color of the text or allowing students to change the contrast of what they are reading. (for students with visual impairments and some types of reading-based learning disabilities)
- Future tests may be translated into different languages.
“The idea of making tests accessible, it’s a social-justice issue,” Mr. Hock said. “And we want to accurately measure every kid’s skills.”The consortia are charged with creating exams for 99 percent of students. For the remaining 1 percent of students with significant cognitive disabilities, separate exams are being designed.