Accessibility and Accommodations

Meeting the Needs of All Students

Assessments help teachers and parents know if students are on the path to success. The Smarter Balanced assessment system provides accurate measures of achievement and growth while challenging students to think critically and solve real-world problems. A core principle of the Smarter Balanced system is accessibility for all students.

The Smarter Balanced tests are designed so that all students—including students who are learning English or have special needs—can participate in the tests and demonstrate what they know and can do. As a result, our end-of-year test include accessibility resources that address visual, auditory, and physical access barriers—allowing virtually all students to demonstrate what they know and can do.

Utilizing the principles of universal design, these accessibility resources include Braille, stacked Spanish translations, videos in American Sign Language, glossaries provided in 10 languages and several dialects, as well as translated test directions in 19 languages. Each of these accessibility resources was built with students in mind and would be cost prohibitive for any state to create on its own.

Download the Accessibility and Accommodations Factsheet (PDF).

What are Accessibility Resources?

  • A set of universal tools—such as a digital notepad and scratch paper—are available to all students.
  • Designated supports—like a translated pop-up glossary—are available to students for whom a need has been identified by school personnel familiar with each student’s needs and testing resources.
  • Accommodations are available to students with a documented need noted in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan. Accommodations include Braille and closed captioning, among others.
  • The Individual Student Assessment Accessibility Profile (ISAAP) tool and training module support educators in selecting accessibility resources that match student access needs.

Developed with Experts

Smarter Balanced worked with educators, students, and experts in the field to design and test the assessment system. We work with advisory panels on English language learners and students with disabilities to ensure that the assessments are developed using principles of Universal Design and research-based best practices.

Smarter Balanced partnered with WIDA to help question writers and reviewers examine the language complexity level used in the Consortium’s questions. WIDA produced a one-page rubric that allows Smarter Balanced to quantify text density, language form and structure, and vocabulary. Smarter Balanced uses this rubric to develop questions. Question writers and reviewers can verify that there is enough diversity in the amount of language complexity used across questions and that the level of language complexity in an individual question is appropriate for the question’s purpose. Smarter Balanced is exploring the psychometric and statistical analysis that can be completed with the language complexity scores.

The Individual Student Assessment Accessibility Profile (ISAAP) Process

The ISAAP process represents a thoughtful and systematic approach to addressing student access needs for Smarter Balanced assessments. The ISAAP process includes preparatory steps, a step for creating the ISAAP itself, and steps that allow educators to check that Designated Supports and Accommodations are entered correctly into the test engine. Optimally, the ISAAP process is a team approach. The overall goal of using the ISAAP process and ISAAP Tool is to provide students with a comfortable testing experience that allows them to demonstrate what they know and can do. For students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 plans, ISAAP decisions are determined by the IEP or 504 teams, respectively.

The following seven-step ISAAP process helps to ensure students have the accessibility supports they need for Smarter Balanced assessments. Schools may organize these steps to fit local resources and needs, adding or collapsing steps as needed:

  1. Select key staff members and define roles.
  2. Provide training and information to staff, students, and parents.
  3. Identify students who will benefit from Designated Supports, Accommodations, or both.
  4. Select the appropriate Designated Supports and Accommodations for each student identified.*
  5. Enter Designated Supports and Accommodations into test engine.
  6. Perform a pre-administration check of assigned access supports.
  7. Check for delivery of assigned Designated Supports and Accommodations at the time of test administration.

*The ISAAP Tool may be used to facilitate the selection of Designated Supports and Accommodations.
Federal law—the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act—prohibits the release of any student’s personally identifiable information. Any printed or electronic materials with student information must be securely stored.

The New Web-based ISAAP Tool

The new web-based ISAAP tool is designed to facilitate selection of the Designated Supports and Accommodations that match student access needs for Smarter Balanced assessments, as supported by the Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines. The ISAAP Tool should be used in conjunction with the Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility and Accommodations Guidelines and state regulations and policies related to assessment accessibility as a part of the ISAAP process.

Assistive Technology Typology

The Assistive Technology Typology document was designed to provide:

  1. A categorized list of assistive technology products that are commonly used for instruction and computer-based assessment
  2. Descriptions of features found in these product
  3. Student characteristics and how they relate to product features
  4. Considerations for embedding versus 3rd party tools
  5. A structure for discussing the potential impact of specific product features on Construct Validity and Test Security/Integrity for the Smarter Balanced assessment.

This document is not intended to compare the quality or relative effectiveness of the products listed herein. Download the Assistive Technology Typology document (XLSX).