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Smarter Balanced Approves Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines

The 23 governing states of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have unanimously approved the consortium's Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines, which outline the modes of assessment delivery for all students, particularly those with special needs.

The guidelines identify three categories of resources to help ensure that the assessments meet the needs of all students:

  • Universal accessibility tools, such as a digital notepad, which will be available to all students;
  • Designated supports, such as a translated pop-up glossary, which will be available to students with special needs, as determined by school personnel; and
  • Accommodations for students as needed according to their individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan, including tools such as Braille and closed captioning.

The guidelines were developed in consultation with states, advisory panels on English language learners and students with disabilities, and national organizations.

Chief state school officers approved the guidelines at a public meeting of the fifth Smarter Balanced Collaboration Conference, which was held at the University of California, Los Angeles, in partnership with the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST). The state education chiefs also voted to affirm that each member state will retain control of student-level data generation by the assessment system.

According to information released by Smarter Balanced, this decision by the governing states "represents an important milestone toward implementing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards in the 2014-15 school year."

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a group of states working to create a common assessment system for math and English language arts that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

The consortium's Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines are available for download as a free PDF from the Smarter Balanced site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at

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