Procure Accessible Assessment Systems
Communicate with families frequently and through a variety of avenues.
Use district email or parent portal to share about how students can be supported during assessment and learning with technology (Mac Iver et al., 2021).
Selecting and procuring accessible and inclusive assessments will help ensure the usefulness of any assessment system. There are several actions a district can take to concretize the process. First, it is important to update or create the assessment procurement policy to require that assessments meet accessibility standards, such as WCAG 2.x or Section 508. Another is to align allowable assessment accommodations with the accommodations that have been identified in a student’s IEP or 504 plan, when possible. Finally, train all educators—general and special—on the process of requesting and justifying accommodations to increase the likelihood each learner will be provided with their needed accommodation.
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 to procure accessible assessment systems:
- Include accessibility standards in the assessment selection criteria and procurement policies.
- Align assessment accommodations to accommodations students use for learning.
- Train general and special education teachers about technology accommodations that are available on district and state assessments.
Fridley Public Schools serve approximately 3,000 students in Fridley, MN. Fridley’s work to bring together assistive technology (AT), information technology (IT), and education technology (EdTech) to benefit students with disabilities has increased over several years. The district started by building educator capacity to consider and implement the use of universal tools during assessment as an essential foundation for ensuring its assessment system is balanced. The Fridley team’s focus has been to ensure that learners are able to make informed choices about what technologies and supports can help them in different situations. As staff members feel more comfortable and confident discussing and advocating for accessibility features and the use of AT supports for instruction, the door opened to align these supports during assessment opportunities.
As part of Fridley’s collaborative approach, AT specialists and special educators work closely with the district’s testing coordinator to identify the various accessibility tools and accommodations available. Building educator capacity on the allowable universal tools available as part of their summative assessments offers Fridley’s inclusive technology team the opportunity to support a broad scope of student assessment and instructional needs. Training students on the universal features for instructional and assessment opportunities ensures that students know and understand the tools available to them. Training the AT team on universal tools allows them to focus more on providing eligible students with the appropriate tools they need to access the assessment(s). For example, the AT team may provide and train a student with low vision to use a large interactive screen, while teaching another to use an eye-gaze system to access to their assessment.
Mac Iver, M.A., Sheldon, S., & Clark, E. (2021) Widening the portal: How schools can help more families access and use the parent portal to support student success, Middle School Journal, 52:1, 14-22, https://doi.org/10.1080/00940771.2020.1840269