Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems Braille Reading Assessment: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems Braille Reading Assessment: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

Structured abstract: Introduction: This exploratory study determined whether transcribing selected test items on an adult life and work skills reading test into braille could maintain the same approximate scale-score range and maintain fitness within the item response theory model as used by the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS) for developing tests. Methods: In concert with a focus group of practitioners, CASAS and the American Printing House for the Blind selected 25 test items in a life and work context that were previously field-tested with approximately 30,000 sighted adult education students. These test items were adapted for a contracted braille format. Both qualitative data and statistical data were collected during and after the braille reading test was field-tested. Results: Sixty-five youths and adults, about 50% of whom were aged 18 or younger, participated in the field testing of the CASAS braille reading test between September 2005 and April 2007. The scale-score range for the braille test was slightly lower than for a similar version in the print format. No significant difference was found between the adults who were visually impaired (those who were blind or had low vision--braille readers) who took the braille test and the sighted adults who took a print version of the brailled test items. Discussion: Valuable suggestions for constructing and administering braille tests were made as a result of the study. New braille assessments will incorporate refreshable braille displays to allow test takers to gain better access to more information and the computing environment. Implications for practitioners: The results support the value of customizing a reading test in a braille format to ensure realistic tasks in the lives and work of adult students who are visually impaired. Hard-copy braille will remain important in future standardized assessments, as will options that offer computer delivery with universal design features.

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A core indicator in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Title II of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act-funded program is the demonstration of measurable improvement in reading, writing, and speaking the English language, and other literacy skills. Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS) is a private, nonprofit research and assessment development organization whose standardized assessment instruments are used to demonstrate measurable learning gains and improvement for WIA, Title II. CASAS works cooperatively with its National Consortium agencies and field practitioners, who advise CASAS of features of assessment designs that are most likely to result in the measurement of practical functional life and work skills, including higher-order thinking skills.

All assessment instruments that are used in the federally funded adult education program are approved by the National Reporting System (NRS) for Adult Education. NRS was developed by the U.S. Department of Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, to demonstrate adult student outcomes and accountability for Adult Basic Education (ABE), Adult Secondary Education, and English as a Second Language (ESL). These programs emphasize basic skills that adults need to be productive workers, family members, and citizens. They include reading, writing, math, and listening for English-language learning.

At least 30 states use some forms of CASAS assessments for their WIA, Title II, federal adult education-funded programs and NRS accountability purposes. Adult programs document students' gains in learning and postprogram placement goals, including employment and post-secondary education. Adult education providers include adult schools that are part of K-12 school districts, community college districts, community-based organizations, library literacy programs, and correctional facilities.

Forms for CASAS reading tests that have been reviewed and approved by the NRS for accountability purposes are from the Life Skills, Employability Competency System, and Life and Work series. …

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