Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Synthesis of Available Accommodations for Students with Visual Impairments on Standardized Assessments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Synthesis of Available Accommodations for Students with Visual Impairments on Standardized Assessments

Article excerpt

Because of the mandates found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004, P.L 108-446) that specifically focus on assessment, most states have developed a set of policies that focus on the types of accommodations that can be provided to students with disabilities. Students with visual impairments require a unique set of accommodations. Braille and large print have been consistently found to be among the two most often identified specific accommodations that are allowed (Bolt & Thurlow, 2004; Christensen, Lazarus, Crone, & Thurlow, 2008). However, limited research has reviewed more specific assessment accommodations that may be needed by students with visual impairments, such as the abacus, talking calculators, and scribes. The purpose of the study presented here was to develop a better understanding of the scope of available accommodations that can be provided to students with visual impairments on state-mandated assessments in Grades 3-12 across the United States and of the similarities and differences in the accommodations provided within the states. The research question asked what specific testing accommodations are available for students with visual impairments when taking state-mandated standardized assessments.

METHODOLOGY

An accommodation exists for the purpose of providing a student with disabilities with access to academic materials, including a student who is taking a test (Allman, 2006). Accommodations are typically categorized as (1) timing or scheduling, (2) response, (3) setting, and (4) presentation (Allman, 2006). The researchers (the authors) accessed all 50 states' testing policy and procedures manuals via the website of the National Center for Educational Outcomes (), which maintains a database of links to each state. We created a specific list of accommodations based on the literature and on best practices for the education of children with visual impairments. We then reviewed each state's testing policy and procedures manual and noted if the state specifically allowed the accommodation using a dichotomous statement (yes or no). They also searched for a generic clause (that is, "the escape clause") that allowed the use of any accommodation based on the individual needs of a student as documented in the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP).

To establish interrater reliability, 50% of the states had at least two researchers review the materials to ensure a level of agreement of over 95%. All the data met the established criteria of 95% agreement. The data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) 18.

FINDINGS

The findings are summarized in Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4. Table 1 presents the findings in relation to accommodations that focus on timing and scheduling, which can be summarized as any change in the amount of time provided for a student or any change in when a student takes the assessment that deviates from the normal testing schedule. The five items in this category were all found in less than half the states except for "allowing multiple day administration of the exam" (56%). Of the five items, four allow for extended testing time for various reasons. In reviewing the data for these four items for each state, we found that 42 states (84%) list a specific accommodation that provides an extended amount of testing time for a student who is taking a test.

Table 2 presents the findings in reference to setting, which denotes a change in where an administration of an assessment takes place. Although there were only two items in this category, "small group administration" was found in 88% of the states' policy manuals. Table 3 reflects the findings in relation to "response," which covers how answers are provided by a student. The most listed accommodation in this category was the use of a scribe to record the answers for the student.

The descriptions of this accommodation did not state whether the scribe marks the answers during or after the examination, just that a scribe may be used. …

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