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Spring 2005 Table of Contents
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Accommodations for Visually Impaired Students on Statewide Assessments

By Ann Adkins, Education Specialist, TSBVI Visually Impaired Outreach

Abstract: This article describes the accommodations that visually impaired students are allowed to use on statewide assessments in Texas.

Keywords: programming, visual impairment, assessment, testing, TAKS, SDAA II, accommodations, modifications

Every year we receive many questions about the accommodations that visually impaired (VI) students are allowed to use on statewide assessments in Texas. Many of the questions seem to occur because of confusion over the use of the terms “accommodation” and “modification”. An accommodation is “a change to the environment to assist a student with instruction and/or assessment.” (2004-2005 ARD Committee Decision-Making Process for the Texas Assessment Program, page 114). A modification is “a change to the test itself.” (page 16). Accommodations are allowed for VI students if they meet the following criteria:

  1. The student must routinely receive the accommodations in classroom instruction and testing.
  2. The accommodations must be documented in the student’s ARD.
  3. The accommodations cannot invalidate the test results.

ARD committees must ensure that any accommodations are based on specific student needs that are identified and addressed in the student’s IEP. New or different accommodations cannot be introduced or allowed on the day of testing. Because district and campus test coordinators are often unfamiliar with the needs of VI students, it is important for the VI teacher (TVI) to work closely with them before the administration of statewide tests.

Parents, teachers and districts are often concerned about the size of print used on large print versions of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) or the State-Developed Alternative Assessment II (SDAA II). Other common questions involve the oral administration of tests or the use of extended time, manipulatives, or calculators. Answers to these questions are provided below, as well as information on how to find the answers to any other questions about testing accommodations for visually impaired students.

  1. Print size of large print tests. If a student needs a larger print size than the type used on the large print versions of the tests, the VI teacher or district testing coordinator should contact the Student Assessment Division of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for permission to enlarge the test to the appropriate size, which should be documented in the student’s Learning Media Assessment (LMA). According to TEA, large print versions of TAKS and SDAA II are enlarged 129% of the original print size. This means that different instructional levels of the tests are in different sizes of print. For TAKS, large print versions of Instructional Levels 3-4 are in 16 pt. type. Instructional Levels 5-10 are in 13-14 pt. type. For SDAA II, Instructional Levels K-2 are in 19 pt. type, Levels 3-4 are in 17.5 pt. type, and Levels 5-10 are in 16 pt. type. Be aware that graphs, numbering, or special mathematics symbols, such as exponents, may be printed in even smaller type than the rest of the tests. The district must get permission in advance to enlarge the tests further.
  2. Oral administration. Only students served by special education or Section 504 may receive an oral administration of the TAKS. Oral administrations are allowed for math, science and social studies, but must be documented in the student’s ARD. Oral administrations are not allowed for the reading, writing, or English Language Arts (ELA) tests. Instructions for oral administrations of SDAA II are given in the administrator’s manual.
  3. Extended time. Visually impaired students, particularly Braille readers, often need additional time to complete tests. If a student needs more than the one day designated for each subject area in order to complete the test, contact the Student Assessment Division of TEA for extended time or any special testing arrangements. Note that prior approval is also needed for some other accommodations, such as using scratch paper.
  4. Use of manipulatives. An instruction sheet with specific information on the administration of Braille tests is included with the TAKS and SDAA II testing materials. This information includes a list of the manipulatives the VI student will need during the tests, such as coins, 3-dimensional shapes, etc. Transcribers’ notes and any changes or omissions in formatting are also included in the instruction sheet. The TVI administering the test will need to review this information before giving the test in order to gather all the appropriate materials. The TVI should make arrangements with the district or campus test coordinator well in advance of the testing day. The TVI must also participate in all appropriate training and sign the Oath of Test Security and Confidential Integrity before administering any state assessment.
  5. Calculators. Calculators are not allowed on the TAKS mathematics tests at Grades 3-8 or on the Science test at Grade 5. Students may use calculators on the SDAA II, Instructional Levels K-8, only if this accommodation is routinely used in instruction and testing, and if it is documented in the IEP.

Answers to most questions about the assessment of VI students can be found on the website of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), <www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment>. Specific information about administering tests to students with visual impairments can also be found in Appendix D of the District and Coordinator Manual 2005, “General Instructions for Administering Tests to Students with Visual Impairments”, pages 297-299. This manual is also available on the TEA website. An “Accommodation Request Form” is available on the website, and a copy is also provided in Appendix B of the Coordinator’s Manual (page 261). It should be mailed or faxed to the Student Assessment Division of TEA in advance of the administration of the tests.

The Student Assessment Division of TEA is very willing to answer all of your questions about allowable accommodations for visually impaired students. Teachers, parents, or district administrators are encouraged to contact them by phone, fax, email, or in writing at:

Texas Education Agency
Student Assessment Division
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701-1494
Phone: 512-463-9536
FAX: 512-463-9302
Email: studenta@tea.state.tx.us

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010