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Comment Deadline Looms for Test Accommodations Manual

Monday is the last day to offer comments on the draft version of an accommodations manual developed by one of the groups tasked with creating Common Core tests. (The link takes you to a page that includes the draft manual, a narrated PowerPoint presentation, a link to share your comments, and a page of frequently asked questions. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Eastern time.)

The manual was developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. Advocates for students with disabilities have seen some of this information before; Earlier this year, PARCC released drafts of specific policies that were incorporated into this comprehensive document.

Those earlier comments, which were solicited on issues such as how to handle read-aloud accommodations, calculator use and word-prediction software did drive changes that are reflected in draft manual, said Tamara Reavis, PARCC's senior adviser for assessment, accessibility, and equity.

For example, the draft of the comprehensive manual has removed terms that were used earlier, such as saying that the read-aloud accommodations could only be used by "virtual non-readers." That terminology was changed to "the student is virtually unable to read printed text and is at the beginning stages of learning to decode, not simply reading below grade level."

The manual also shows how the accommodations that are intended for students with disabilities fit into an overall model of providing support to all students, Reavis said.

Some disability advocates have the same problems with this draft manual as they did when earlier pieces were released, however. Laura Kaloi, the director of public policy for the New York-based National Center for Learning Disabilities, said in an interview Friday that the manual fails to explain how using certain accommodations, such as read-aloud, would invalidate the test items. "They have not explained why these restrictions are necessary on test items that are not yet designed," she said.

The Learning Disabilities Association of America has its own concerns with the manual—the organization contends that all of the test's accessibility features should be available to all students with disabilities, with an IEP team making the decision about which accommodations are appropriate for a given student.

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