Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
Beyond Access for Assessment Accommodations
This project represents past work of the UNH Institute on Disability and is no longer active.
Five years of New Hampshire (NH) Alternate Assessment (AA) data have shown that 5-10% (or approximately 50 – 100) of students annually who participate in alternate assessment would be more appropriate for general assessment with accommodations. This observation suggests these students’ educational programs may not reflect the highest expectations. The design of AA is based on alternate achievement standard for students with significant cognitive disabilities and the decision-making criteria for students to participate in AA is such that there are no expectations for these students to be able to demonstrate the same breadth, depth, and complexity of learning (academic standards) as students without disabilities. Presently, accommodations are not specified for the population of students taking the NH AA (students with moderate to severe disabilities) and differentiation between accommodations and modifications is not required.
This project aims to (1) develop new accommodations for the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) that do not impact its validity and reliability, resulting in an increase in the percentage of students taking the NECAP with accommodations, a decrease in the percentage of students taking the NH AA, and an increase in the percentage of students with disabilities who access the depth, breadth, and complexity of the general curriculum, and (2) enhance the State Education Agency’s ability to provide guidance and supervision to the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) relative to the participation of students with disabilities in statewide assessments. These goals are all consistent with New Hampshire’s State Performance Plan.
Participants in this 12-month project will include 16 elementary school students in NH with moderate to severe disabilities who are currently participating in the NH AA and who are judged as potential candidates for participation in the NECAP with accommodations. Students with moderate to severe disabilities will include those with low-incidence disabilities such as cognitive impairment, autism, and deaf-blindness. The project will then recruit the appropriate LEAs to participate in the “Beyond Access” field-test to develop new accommodations. Products of this study will include (1) definitions and exemplars of appropriate accommodations, (2) training materials and web-based self-study modules to enhance the NH Department of Education’s supervision regarding decisions for students’ participation in statewide assessments, (3) an evaluation tool to assess NH schools’ appropriate use of a decision-making process and participation criteria for NECAP, NECAP with accommodations, and NH Alternate Assessment, and (4) NH Addenda to the NECAP Accommodations Guide.
The results of this project will be shared with Rhode Island and Vermont as recommendations to integrate new accommodations into the NECAP policy and procedures in all three states. Furthermore, the model and findings will be disseminated nationally for potential application in other states using similar assessments. Recommendations will be developed for the NECAP management team and Institutions of Higher Education regarding decision-making criteria as well as definitions and exemplars of accommodations. The findings from this project will more strongly articulate the need for the inclusion of specific accommodations within NECAP to a broader set of stakeholders and provide a significant opportunity to ensure appropriate accommodations for students with moderate to severe disabilities.
This project responds to Priority 4, IDEA General Supervision Enhancement Grant Request for Proposals from the Office of Special Education Programs (CFDA 84.326X) and is a collaborative project between the NH Department of Education; the Institute on Disability/ UCED at the University of New Hampshire; Learning Innovations at WestEd; Northeast Regional Resource Center; and cooperating NH rural, suburban, and urban school districts.