Preparing our Learning Disabled Students for PARCC Testing

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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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Janice Reese

Janice Reese

Director of the AT Center at LTVEC
Assistive Technology Professional
Occupational Therapist

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About Me

My name is Janice Reese and I LOVE assistive technology! I worked as an Occupational Therapist for more than 15 years, earned a Master’s degree in Education Technology, and I’m RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Profession (ATP).  I have worked in the school system for many years now and I love using technology to enhance the lives of children with disabilities. Since my first love is teaching, I’ve spent just as much time training wonderful teachers everywhere to use these tools in their classrooms.  AT4Kids, llc was founded in 2008 in an effort to provide quality instruction and resources for teachers, therapists, student users and parents who wanted to know more about using AT.

I currently serve as Director of the Center for Assistive Technology, a state-supported program of the Little TN Valley Educational Cooperative.  LTVEC is a non-profit agency whose goal is to provide rehabilitation services and accessibility supports for students with special needs in east Tennessee.  My AT4Kids blog is designed to be as a one-stop resource for ideas and information for those wanting to learn more about the use of AT with children in the special education setting.

I hope to offer helpful hints, program and product reviews, AT recommendations, links to great new finds on the web, and lists of resources for “all things AT”.

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