A Free AFB Teleseminar

Wednesday, December 4, 3:00 p.m., Eastern

Are you concerned about the impending widespread use of computerized testing, particularly to assess student performance with respect to the common core state standards? Do you worry that students with vision loss will be denied appropriate testing accommodations? Would you like to be part of a strategy to communicate effectively with states, districts and schools to advocate for the most meaningful testing accommodations for students who are blind or visually impaired?

On Wednesday afternoon, December 4, at 3:00 p.m., Eastern, you are invited to join in a 90-minute teleseminar free of charge to voice your concerns and mobilize with your colleagues, with parents and consumers. While our field is wrestling fairly well with the question of the appropriateness of test content for students with vision loss, we have not been as organized and effective in our response to assessment administration and accommodations issues. Given that computerized state common core assessments are in our immediate future, we need to work together to make sure that needless barriers to student performance are eliminated.

To join the interactive teleseminar, no RSVP is required. Simply call the number below about five minutes prior to the 3:00 p.m start time on Wednesday, December 4. Dial:


and tell the operator that you are joining the AFB Assessments Call.


Two federally funded projects, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are developing computerized testing tools which will be used by participating states to assess student ability in English language arts and mathematics in accordance with the Common Core State Standards. States that participate in these consortia are committing to implement both the specific testing methodologies they develop and the testing accommodations policies for test takers with disabilities they adopt.

Advocates for students with disabilities have had mixed results negotiating with these consortia concerning their proposed testing methodologies and accommodations policies. The consortia have been apparently largely committed to requiring students with disabilities to make use of so-called built-in accessibility features to take the computerized common core assessment tests rather than also allowing students to use their preferred assistive technology. This reluctance is seemingly based on the unfounded belief that test security cannot be ensured when students are allowed to use their preferred assistive technology. Moreover, the consortia have also proposed accommodations policies that would, for example, limit student use of read-aloud functionality as an alternative to, or as a supplement to, visual or tacktile decoding.

Both the intention to exclude use of assistive technology and the overly restrictive accommodations policies would have a detrimental effect on student test performance because, rather than ensuring test integrity and the validity of test results, denying appropriate accommodations to students with disabilities will, in fact, undermine the legitimacy of these assessments and invalidate test results. This is because students who are forced to abandon techniques they regularly employ will not be assessed on what they know but how well they perform using unfamiliar and questionable testing techniques and accommodations.

Ultimately, however, it will be the several states, and not these two consortia, who will bear the legal and practical responsibilities to properly accommodate students. For example, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that the accommodations preference of the individual with disabilities is to be given priority. In implementing computerized common core assessment tests, states that deny students the ability to use their preferred assistive technology or that otherwise set up accommodations policies that restrict provision of preferred appropriate accommodations will be in violation of federal law unless states can demonstrate that honoring student preference would be an undue burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the common core assessments they administer.

Advocates are concerned about two major issues, test question design to eliminate bias against students who are blind or visually impaired, and the testing accommodations that will be permitted. While both issues are critical, this 90-minute free teleseminar will focus on the accommodations policies that the two consortia have been proposing and how we can work most effectively with states to communicate student needs and capabilities.

For further information, contact:

Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy, AFB
(202) 469-6833