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Common Core Test Group Seeks Comment on Writing-Support Accommodation

A 23-state assessment consortium is looking for feedback on another piece of the test-accommodations manual it is drafting, this time focusing on proposed policies for the use of scribes and word-prediction software.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is one of two groups that is creating tests for the Common Core State Standards. Earlier this month, public comment closed on two other draft policies, relating to the accommodations such as human read-aloud and calculators. The policies will eventually be included in a comprehensive "accommodations manual" that will guide schools and districts in how to administer the tests.

The scribe accommodation proposal says that scribes--a human or device that records what a student dictates--should only be used for:

•A student with a physical disability that impedes the motor process of writing, or,
•A student with a disability that significantly impacts the area of written expression.

The proposal goes on to state: "For students identified with a disability that significantly impacts the area of written expression, to be eligible for the scribe accommodation, a student must also meet the following conditions: Student receives ongoing, research-based interventions for written expression, as deemed appropriate by the [individualized education program] team and indicated as a specific instructional goal in the student's IEP; and student only has access to written expression during routine instruction through the use of a scribe, outside of time spent in direct writing instruction."

For all eligible students, the accommodation must be decided upon by the IEP team, and listed in an approved IEP documented by objective, measurable data, and evaluation reports.

Word-prediction software provides students a "word bank" of recently or commonly-used words that they can access by typing just a few letters. The word-prediction software accommodation proposal would be limited to:

•A student with a specific disability who has difficulty producing text due to the speed with which the student is able to enter keystrokes;
•A student with a significant disability that impedes language processing and/or recall.

Similar to the scribe accommodation proposal, the document says, "For students identified with a specific disability that impacts the area of language processing and/or recall, to be eligible for the word prediction accommodation, a student must also meet the following conditions: Student receives ongoing, research-based interventions for language processing and/or recall, as deemed appropriate by the IEP team and indicated as a specific instructional goal in the student's IEP; and student only has access to written expression during routine instruction through the use of word-prediction software outside of time spent in direct writing instruction."

Those who are interested in commenting on these proposed guidelines can do so via an online survey. The deadline for comments is February 20.

The consortium has yet to release any information about the feedback that it received on its first two proposal on calculators and read-aloud accommodations. But some groups were seeing those proposals as unnecessarily restrictive. The National Center for Learning Disabilities, for example, described those early proposals as placing accommodations for students "under attack." These latest proposed policies, if adopted, could also have the effect of narrowing the number of students who are currently allowed to use word prediction software or scribes for other tests.

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