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ELL and Spec. Ed. Advisors Named for Common Assessment Group

One of the groups designing assessments for the common standards has formed two panels of experts to provide advice on how to ensure that the new tests will validly, reliably, and fairly measure how English-learners and students with disabilities are achieving.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium of states announced its two groups of advisers recently and includes heavy hitters from both the English-language learner and special education worlds. On the ELL side, the 11-expert panel includes five members of the Understanding Language team, including its co-chairs, Kenji Hakuta, a Stanford University professor, and MarĂ­a Santos, the deputy superintendent of instruction in Oakland. Jamal Abedi, an expert on assessing English-language learners at the University of California, Davis, is also in the group.

The panels will wrestle with questions about appropriate accommodations for students, among other issues related to the tests' development. The experts will also advise on translation, as the Smarter Balanced math tests will be translated into Spanish, American Sign Language, and a few other languages. The groups have already met once, according to Smarter Balanced folks, and will continue to do so through the rest of the year.

Both Smarter Balanced and the other major group of states developing tests—Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, or PARCC—have already been working to craft sample test items that offer a good, early idea of the kinds of questions and tasks that students will be asked to complete. The new tests are set to roll out in the 2014-15 school year.

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