Blind students will have access to the common-core-aligned field tests under development by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, based on a settlement to a lawsuit filed against PARCC by the National Federation of the Blind, a Baltimore-based advocacy organization.
NFB had filed the lawsuit in January, saying that the practice tests aligned with the common core need to be accessible to students using Braille so that any problems could be fixed before the tests are officially administered in the 2014-15 school year. The organization had filed on behalf of a blind student in New Jersey, one of the states that is administering tests developed by PARCC.
Representatives from PARCC, one of two federally funded consortia developing general tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards, have said that not all accessibility features will be available for the spring 2014 field tests. (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the second test-development group, has said its field tests will be accessible.) But under the terms of the settlement announced Monday, all of the PARCC practice tests will be compatible with accessibility devices such as refreshable Braille displays or text-to-speech screen-reader software, or through electronic files that can be used to create hard-copy Braille pages and tactile graphics.
"Blind students are far too often forced to wait for equal access to educational materials, and as a result end up lagging far behind their sighted peers in academics. This important settlement will address that problem by ensuring that PARCC's assessments and practice tests are accessible to blind students at the same time that they are deployed to all students," said Marc Maurer, the president of the federation.