by Bill Guy
California educators of special education students and English learners report they have been given little professional development on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). They are particularly concerned about the amount of vocabulary, reading and writing expected of their students when they take the new exams. The release of Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines may give them some solace.
The research-based guide, approved by the governing states of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), provides testing supports and tools for all students, including those with disabilities and English learners. It also helps shape the delivery of online testing for all students, including those with visual, auditory, linguistic or physical needs.
The guide includes embedded supports that are part of the test software, and nonembedded supports (such as printed materials and handheld calculators) that may be provided by test administrators, within three broad categories (see chart):
Universal Tools will be built into the technology platform all students will use to take their tests.
Designated Supports will include language supports available for English learners, will be based on teacher or school team recommendation, and must be identified ahead of any test.
- Documented Accommodations are for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan that calls for their use.
In California, English learners will have available the full array of language supports. Supports for math assessments will include translated test directions, translated glossaries for select words in math test items to help students understand specific terms, and complete or “stacked” translations of test items that will appear above the original English items. All of these translation tools will be embedded in the digital test administration platform and can be turned on or off by test administrators. In addition, English learners may use translated glossaries in print to aid understanding of selected math terms on some test items.
For the English-language arts assessment, English learners have access to a bilingual or dual-language word-to-word dictionary for the extended writing portions of a performance task. All the translation supports will be available in Spanish, but the test consortium will also offer translations in other languages, as determined by member states’ needs. So far, the consortium has committed to providing the glossary translation tools in Vietnamese and Arabic.
The Smarter Balanced Assessments in English-language arts and math, along with the supports, will be field-tested in the spring of 2014, with the full rollout of the Smarter Balanced exams in the 2014-15 school year.
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