Better Tests, Fewer Barriers: Advances in Accessibility through PARCC and Smarter Balanced

As the title implies, this Center for American Progress publication provides an overview of the general movement toward increased accessibility for students with disabilities (SWDs) and English Language Learners (ELLs). The authors present statistics showing a substantial increase in the numbers of SWDs and ELLs in U.S. public schools and how paper and pencil tests are often ill-suited for these students. The authors describe in detail how both the Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments improve accessibility through principles of universal design, improved technology, interactive items and tasks, built in accommodations features, and fast scoring. The article concludes with specific next-step recommendations. 

Content Comments 

The purposes of this publication are nicely described in a two-page introduction and summary. Those purposes are well met through an excellent presentation of evidence and support information, illustrating how Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments have substantially increased accessibility for students with disabilities and English Language Learners. The article is fairly straightforward, although I would have preferred a much shorter introduction and summary. The rest of the document is excellent and includes important discussions about how some states are pulling back from these two consortia-developed assessments largely due to political issues, not the quality of the assessments themselves.

Communications quality is excellent as is the graphic design. I would prefer a few images illustrating at least a few of the assessments' accessibility features. Nice coverage as well regarding other consortia developing accessible assessments for the most impaired students. 

Utility should be quite high, especially by state education leaders. Although evidence of effectiveness is not discussed, this publication has a potential impact for improved learning.