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How accommodating are the PAARC Accommodations?

Although our current weather may lead

one to believe otherwise, spring will be
here in no time.

In Illinois, springtime means

standardized testing time for students.
Between March 6th and April 28th,
Illinois students in grades 3 through 8
are taking the PARCC assessment for
the third straight year (Illinois State
Board of Education, 2016).

Standardized Testing and PARCC

For over a decade the federal government has required that at least 95% of all
students take standardized math and reading tests annually; taking these
assessments in a paper-based format has been particularly difficult for students
with disabilities (Edyburn, 2013). In 2010 the Partnership for Assessment of
Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was tasked by the U.S.
Department of Education to develop a new generation of high stakes
standardized tests aligned with the Common Core (Edyburn, 2013). These
computer-based tests were introduced to Illinois students in the spring of 2015.

The arrival of the computer-based PARCC test has brought benefits. Tests are
more cost effective to administer and results can be received more quickly.
Some argue computer-based tests offer greater engagement for all students, via
interactive questions (Batel & Sargrad, 2016). Certainly computer based
assessments offer benefits for students requiring accommodations.

Students requiring accommodations

According to recent
estimates, English
language learners
(ELL) and students
with disabilities make
up more than 20% of
public school
enrollment (Batel &
Sargrad, 2016).

Batel and Sargrad,

former U.S. Department of Education staffers currently with the Center for
American Progress, believe it is critical that these students have the same
opportunities as their peers to demonstrate their knowledge and skills and
receive appropriate supports to meet their needs (2016).

Accommodations available through PARCC

On paper, PARCC would seem to provide robust accommodations for all
students. According to the 224- page PARCC Accessibility Features and
Accommodations Manual (2015), by applying principles of universal design
PARCC is allowing a broad range of accommodations . . . for the widest
possible number of students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

PARCC embedded accommodations include:

Audio amplification
Color contrast
Digital notes
Highlighting and bookmarking
Line reader mask
Text to speech for math
Translations and translated glossaries for math

However, as we prepare to enter our third year of PARCC, are all of our students
needs being met? This is exactly what Batel and Sargrad considered in the 2016
report they authored for the Center for American Progress: Better Tests, Fewer
Barriers: Advances in Accessibility through PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

Recommendations for Improving PARCC

Overall, the report found PARCC accommodations to be robust, with
improvements continuing thanks to field-testing and ongoing feedback solicited
from administrators, student surveys and a review board. Improvement still is
needed, however, in the area of interoperability between students own assistive
devices and PARCC.

Batel and Sargrad suggest,

Going forward it will be
important for test developers
and assistive technology
vendors to agree on clear and
consistent standards for
interoperability so students can
access the assistive
technology they use daily when
taking assessments (2016).

The other major recommendation revolves around accommodations for English

Language Learners. PARCC provides translations for math, but not reading, and
these vary by state. The report recommends that improvements for ELL students
should be an essential priority (Batel & Sargrad, 2016). As it stands now, there
is no way of knowing, since the reading assessment is written in English, whether
an ELL students score is a reflection of students English proficiency skills or
their content knowledge (Batel & Sargrad, 2016).

This 2016 report from the Center for American Progress should do much to
reassure educators, students and families that the PARCC test is making great
effort to facilitate the opportunity for all students to demonstrate fully their
knowledge and skills.


Batel, S., & Sargrad, S. (2016, February). Better tests, fewer barriers: Advances in

accessibility through PARCC and smarter balanced.

[Debra Ruh disability image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Edyburn, D. L. (2013, December). The new common core state standards assessments:

Building awareness for assistive technology specialists. Retrieved February 9,

2017, from website:

Illinois State Board of Education. (2016, December). Illinois assessment update.

Retrieved from

PARCC accessibility feature and accommodations manual (4th ed.). (2015, September

19). Retrieved February 7, 2017, from


Partnership for assessment of readiness for college and careers: Overview and update.

(2013, July 15). Retrieved February 7, 2017, from
[Students testing]. (2015, September 17). Retrieved from


[Test date on calendar]. (n.d.). Retrieved from