Including students who are blind or visually impaired in English language proficiency assessments: A review of state policies

This report, from the National Center on Educational Outcomes, focuses on state participation and accommodation policies for English Language Proficiency (ELP) assessments for English language learner (ELL) students who are blind or visually impaired (VI). From the abstract: “NCEO staff found that across all domains, Braille, Large Print, and Magnification Equipment appeared to be the least controversial accommodations. State policies on Read Aloud Questions varied across domains. This accommodation was generally not allowed on the Reading domain, but more than half of all states allowed its use on the Writing domain. Very few states had policies allowing Read Aloud Questions on the Listening and Speaking domains.” The findings from this report suggest that states are beginning to address the needs of ELLs who are Blind/VI; “however, the lack of state policies on accommodations for this population demonstrates that there is still a large amount of work to do in defining policy for this population” (p. iv). The authors discuss how states will need to investigate the purpose of the tests, account how new technologies can help ELLs who are Blind/VI gain access to ELP assessments, and determine whether and in what circumstances selective participation by domain is appropriate for ELLs who are Blind/VI.

Content Comments 

The purposes of this document are effectively described and met in both the executive summary and full report. The methodology is appropriate for the types of conclusions sought. Although this document reviews state policies for inclusion of blind or visually impaired ELL students in ELP assessments, it does not list the individual states and their policies, which limits its utility some. However, its uniqueness and depth of coverage may still be helpful, especially for documenting long-term progress on this issue, and it may well spur states to provide more policy guidance to school districts and schools, especially for those accommodations where progress is scarce. The quality of communication is appropriate for a report of this nature, and while evidence of effectiveness is not addressed, it is reasonable to conclude from the content and overall quality that impact on learning is possible.