August 18, 2013

Smarter Balanced Moves Ahead on Testing Tools for English-Learners


Smarter Balanced Moves Ahead on Testing Tools for English-Learners
By Lesli A. Maxwell
August 12, 2013

In the coming weeks, the 25 states that currently make up the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will review the latest iteration of guidelines for accessibility and accommodations for ELLs and students with disabilities and provide feedback and suggested changes. The states will debate and vote on a final set of guidelines at a Smarter Balanced board meeting in Los Angeles on Sept. 10.

In addition to its translations work as a tool for English-learners, Smarter Balanced has developed a ratings system of sorts to guide states' decisions about which accommodations to use for English-learners and students with disabilities. The categories are "use," "use with caution," "not use," or "unsure." Only those that have sufficient evidence in research literature to show that they make a test item more accessible to ELLs while also not providing an unfair advantage to the test taker earned a "use" recommendation.

The test designers at Smarter Balanced have also been using a language complexity tool that helps determine whether the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in a test item can be made simpler, or more accessible, without changing what the item is meant to measure.

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