PARCC Releases Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - July 25, 2013 - The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today released the first edition of the accessibility features and accommodations manual for the assessments currently being developed.The PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual is a comprehensive policy document that outlines the accessibility features and accommodations that will be available for the PARCC Mid-Year, Performance-Based, and End-of-Year Assessments. The release of the manual is an important step in meeting PARCC's commitment to accessibility for all students, especially students with disabilities, English learners and English learners with disabilities, and for meeting the timelines for a 2014 - 2015 assessment administration.

"The manual is the result of two years of focused work and consensus among the states," said Dr. Lillian Lowery, Superintendent of the Maryland State Department of Education. "After three rounds of public comment and significant input from states and experts, this is a major accomplishment."

The majority of the proposed accommodations policies are currently in use across PARCC states. What is different from many current state accommodations manuals, however, is that the manual includes not only proposed participation and accommodations policies for students with disabilities and English learners, but also information about tools that will be provided through PARCC's computer-based assessment delivery system for all students.

Diane August, member of the PARCC Technical Working Group, said that by assessing on computer devices, PARCC states will now have the opportunity to provide student with tools they frequently use in the classroom and daily life. "Many features that were once considered accommodations are now available for all students through the online delivery platform and the commitment to universal design principles," said August.

In addition to state assessment and content experts and the nationally recognized experts who serve on PARCC's Technical Working Group, PARCC also collaborated with national stakeholders and advocacy groups.

"We appreciate the willingness of the PARCC developers to elicit feedback on the needs of students with disabilities and English learners from a broad range of invested stakeholders and hope that the accessibility and equity policies will continue to evolve so as to provide a fair and accurate measure of what these learners know and can do," said Chuck Hitchcock, Chief Officer of Policy and Technology and Director at the National AIM Center, on behalf of the CAST Assessment Team. CAST is an educational research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning.

Gary Cook, a member of the PARCC Technical Working Group for English learners, said, "The development of the PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual was an iterative process and a collaboration among many, and decisions were made on the most recent research available in the field. Concerns for English learners and their diverse needs were taken into account since I have been involved with this process." Cook is an Associate Research Scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

With the manual, PARCC is also releasing online brochures called Expanding Access for parents and teachers of students with disabilities to explain the PARCC assessment and the accessibility system. "These brochures will be a great resource for parents and teachers," said Otha Thornton, National PTA President. "National PTA supports PARCC in its efforts to allow every single child the opportunity to show what they know, and to allow parents and teachers of these children access to the quality information they need to make decisions about improving learning outcomes. National PTA applauds PARCC for its support of these families, and knows that PTA members across the nation will find this guide incredibly valuable in understanding the coming advances in assessments that are critical for the special needs community."

"The brochures will help parents and teachers become informed participants in the critical conversations that will be held in states and districts," said Joanne Cashman, Director of the IDEA Partnership at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. PARCC will also release brochures for parents and teachers of English learners later this year.

On January 16, 2013, PARCC initially released two draft accommodations policies for public comment, the reading access accommodation and the calculator use accommodation. On February 8, PARCC released the draft accommodations policy for writing access. Between April 18 and May 13, 2013, PARCC released the draft manual for a public comment period. These comments drove the many changes that were made to the document before the first addition was approved by the PARCC Governing Board on June 26, 2013.

In fall 2013, PARCC will release full administrative guidance in support of the policies released today. These guidelines are designed by the states with input from leading experts and will support states and districts in the implementation of the policies. Additional policy and guidance on assistive technology is also in development.

For more information or to view the policies, visit http://www.parcconline.org.

Media Contact: Chad Colby (202) 419-1570, ccolby@achieve.org  

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