Leadership

Blind Federation: Make K-12 Assessments Accessible to All

By / Jan 29, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The National Federation of the Blind is suing the maker of a K-12 standardized assessment, saying the organization is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not making its field tests accessible to blind students.

Blind Americans, and the parents of blind children, cannot and will not tolerate blind students being forced to wait for likely inferior accessibility to the tests that will measure their academic performance, simply because the students happen to live in states that are part of a consortium that does not take its stated commitment to accessibility seriously.

Blind students are being left out and disadvantaged by the maker of a series of K-12 standardized tests, according to the National Federation of the Blind.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court against PARCC, Inc.—a nonprofit corporation founded by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium of 18 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands—NFB alleges that the company’s failure to make the tests accessible to blind students during the field testing process violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The field test is not offered in Braille or with the text-to-speech screen-reading technology used by many blind students, the federation said.

“While PARCC has promised that its assessment tests will ultimately be accessible, the lack of accessibility during field testing will put blind students at a significant disadvantage, because accessibility issues that may arise will not be identified until PARCC’s assessments are being deployed throughout the states in the consortium,” NFB President Marc Maurer said in a statement.  “Blind Americans, and the parents of blind children, cannot and will not tolerate blind students being forced to wait for likely inferior accessibility to the tests that will measure their academic performance, simply because the students happen to live in states that are part of a consortium that does not take its stated commitment to accessibility seriously.”

The PARCC field test is scheduled to be administered this spring to more than a million students in randomly selected schools in the consortium states. Designed to match the PARCC assessments that will be administered in the 2014-2015 academic year, the field tests are meant to help students and teachers acclimate to the test’s administration process, PARCC states on its website.

The PARCC assessment will measure the Common Core State Standards—a nationwide initiative announced in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to establish a common set of English and math standards that aim to prepare students for college and careers.

PARCC received a $186 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education as part of its Race to the Top assessment competition to create a next-generation assessment system.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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