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Collaborate with State Testing Officials

District communication and collaboration with state testing officials, whenever possible, can help promote a clear understanding of accessible and inclusive assessment practices within the district and at the state-level. From the district perspective, a clear understanding of state allowable accommodation and how to provide them will boost the confidence of educators who administer the assessments. State leaders can learn from a district’s experience and perspective when determining assessment protocols. District leaders should create open communication channels with the state to provide a consistent feedback loop.

The Center for Inclusive Technology in Education Systems (CITES) uses an iterative design-thinking process, in partnership with local districts, to identify and refine a set of promising practices that enhance assessments within an inclusive technology ecosystem.

Actions districts can take that support special education and assistive technology professionals’ voices at the state level include:

  • Include special education and AT personnel in leadership roles across district activities related to assessment.
  • Communicate with state testing coordinators about accessibility of state assessments, including assistive technology accommodations.

Massachusetts DESE's Story

Photo of the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education building

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Daniel Wiener serves as Administrator of Inclusive Assessment with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MADESE). Wiener oversees the availability of accessibility options and alternate assessments offered for statewide assessments administered in the state’s 400 school districts and communicates this information to the field. He and his staff have seen major shifts in assessment policy and administration over the last 20 years that have resulted in the need for districts to shift their assessment implementation strategies.

Like many other states, MADESE updated Accessibility and Accommodations manual annually to reflect shifts in the assessment landscape, including research and practices in administering assessments, as well as the advent of technology-based solutions. These shifts required Wiener and his team to rethink and retool the guidance, training, and support they provide to districts in Massachusetts. They meet periodically with statewide focus groups comprised of educators, students, and families, and with counterparts in other states, to help inform the necessary updates and changes. From the beginning, Dan and his team have rejected the notion that accommodations invalidate assessment results, and remain firm in the belief that “not giving an accommodation when it’s needed produces less valid results than providing one.” The recent adoption of computer-based assessments has provided an opportunity to reshape the entire accessibility landscape in the state. For example, the updated policy supports the provision of “universal accessibility features” and “designated accessibility features” to all students that were previously regarded as accommodations only for students with disabilities, and expands the availability of accommodations to English learners.

Wiener continues to employ feedback from educators across the state to improve and refine the provision of accommodations and accessibility features. Recently, one urban educator requested that assistive technologies like speech-to-text and word prediction be made available to students for use on the statewide test using a single computer, rather than relying on the cumbersome transcription of responses from a second external device. He insisted to Wiener that learners should be allowed to use the tools they use during instruction for the assessment without the need of an additional device. Wiener and his team advocated for the availability of this option by partnering with assessment publishers and assistive technology companies and together they worked to develop new “web extensions” that allow learners the opportunity to use their routine instructional AT tools during assessments. Through Dan and his team, the Department continues its commitment to responding to feedback to improve the accessibility of its assessments and their implementation.

Visit the State of State Assessment, by TextHelp, for more information.

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