Preparing for PARCC Testing

The shift toward computer delivered assessments bring a mix of emotions as we’re both excited about its potential, yet overwhelmed by the demands it places on us as educators.  With this in mind, we have begun introducing our teachers to comparable tools that they can use in the classroom now to prepare students for those we will see integrated into the tests next year.  Here is the Preparing for PARCC Testing ppt  Powerpoint I used for teachers in Blount County this week.  It contains information about the PARCC guidelines, as well as links to some terrific freebie Web 2.0 resources, tech tutorial sites, and software supports for consideration.  The TN Department of Education has also provided us with additional resources offering greater detail.  This PARCC Accessibility Manual for Field Testing includes additional information related to test questions with accessibility supports.

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Free Vision Support Toolbar

 

MyVisBar

I love the free accessibility tools offered by EduApps!  Although vision support options are included in the popular MyStudyBar tool, they have gone one step further and created a standalone application called MyVisBar for users with low vision.

MyVisBar can be downloaded to the computer (or a USB drive for added portability) for use with any PC or Android device.  It offers excellent magnification with additional built-in supports for learners with visual difficulties. Features include options for changing text contrast (yellow on black), a visible ring to help track the cursor, a nice screen reader, high contrast text editing, color masking for text, and the ability to change the desktop resolution.  Similar supports are available for student use within the online PARCC tests. These tools are quite helpful for students with low vision as well as those who need text accommodations to support independent reading.

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Free, Portable Web 2.0 Reading & Writing Supports

eduapps.org

Gone are the days when we had to purchase expensive technology supports and install from a CD to every computer a student might use.  With the growing number of Web 2.0 tools, there are now many free resources available to provide students the accessibility and support features they need, whenever they need them and wherever they are. EduApps is one of my favorite resources and offers some outstanding web 2.0 tools for students who need added support for reading, studying, writing, or using the internet.

EduApps creates accessibility software and offers them as free downloads for the desktop computer and/or Android market.  They can be saved to a USB drive as well, allowing students to take the support they need home with them. The popular MyStudyBar (one of my favorites) is a floating toolbar equipped with a range of reading, writing, and organizing tools.  Many of the features found on this tool are allowable accommodations on the new PARCC online tests.  Use of this tool in the classroom would benefit students who need these supports throughout the year and for participation with online evaluations.

mystudybar

 

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TN Assistive Technology Conference 2013: Preparing Students for PARCC Testing

Conference 2013

The Tennessee Association for Assistive Technology has announced an amazing lineup of scheduled sessions for their 2013 conference. Held yearly in Murfreesboro, TN, this is an outstanding event for those who want to learn more about the use of AT in the special education setting.  Many of the sessions offered this year are designed to address the use of augmentative communication tools and strategies with language impaired students, while others will focus on using Assistive Technologies to adapt instruction for the new Common Core State Standards.  Even better, there are a large number of sessions designed to provide guidance in preparing students with special needs for the PARCC and NCSC related online assessments.  PARCC recently released its list of approved assistive technologies that will be integrated into their testing formats and teachers are rushing to find ways to teach students to use these supports.  If you’re looking for help with this daunting task, then the TAAT Conference 2013 is the place to be!  Session Time Ordered List.

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Preparing our Learning Disabled Students for PARCC Testing

 

PARCC logo

The times are changing …

When Tennessee adopted the Common Core State Standards we accepted the challenge to change what we will teach and how we will teach it to reach new academic heights.  Along with that, we also changed how we will test for it and that part has made things a little scary in the world of special education…

When PARCC designed the new tests to evaluate student learning of the CCSS material, they elected to administer them in a brand new computer-delivered format. That’s what is making special education teachers across the country a wee bit nervous.

While nobody is arguing with the move toward technology-based assessments, teachers are overwhelmed by the secondary demand of preparing our learning disabled students to actually access the tests and navigate through them unaided.   Students must be able to read the directives, follow the prompts and input the responses without the hand-on assistance of a teacher. There is the real possibility that students may actually become smarter from instruction using the new standards, but might not be able to demonstrate that if they’re are so overwhelmed by the navigation and access issues related to the test that they can’t focus on the content!

The good news… according to the newly released PARCC Accessibility and Accommodations Manual, students will have access to all word processing functions as well as a wide range of integrated assistive technology supports during testing.  Examples include text-to-speech, voice dictation, word prediction, spell checkers, pop-up dictionaries, translators, text adjustments, screen magnification and more.  If it’s included as a learning support in the IEP, they will be allowed to use it on the test.  Now, that’s progress!

The not-so-good news… most of our teachers don’t know how to use these tools, so their students don’t know how either.  For students that do, they’ve never been allowed to use them during a high-stakes test. This IS change for the better. These access supports really do level the field for a lot of our kids.  We just need a plan for teaching them what they need to know to access and make the most of them.

More good news…as part of my graduate level work with Western Governors University, I have taken on this topic for my courses in instructional design.  I will be posting information and links for Web 2.0 tools that replicate those we’ll see on PARCC tests.  As I gather information and ideas, create new  materials and find new resources, I will be sharing them here.  We have been advocating for the increased use of AT and this is the best thing to happen to our LD kids in a very long time!  Let’s turn ‘scared’ into EXCITED!

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