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SBAS: Tools & Accommodations for State Testing

SBAS: Tools & Accommodations for State Testing

Published: Apr. 5, 2023Updated: Apr. 12, 2023

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Statewide tests only have certain accommodations available: universal tools (available to all students), designated supports (available to students for whom a need has been indicated), and accommodations (only available to those students who have the need documented in their IEP or 504 plan). Within these accommodations, some are embedded (resources that are part of the online test administration system) and some are non-embedded.

In states that use the Smarter Balanced Assessment System (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming), schools can make available to students only the universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations that are included in the Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines. To understand what your child’s IEP should say about statewide testing, it’s important to understand the different types of tools and accommodations available for the CAASPP and the CAA.

Allowed accommodations for state testing

CAASPP universal tools

Universal tools are available to all students on the basis of student preference and selection, and they are embedded in the online platform. These include:

  • Breaks: The number of test items per session can be flexibly defined based on the student’s need. Breaks of more than 20 minutes will prevent the student from returning to items already attempted by the student. There is no limit on the number of breaks that a student might be given, but the student may need additional overall time to complete the assessment.
  • Digital notepad or global notes
  • English dictionary and glossary
  • Expandable passages and/or items and zoom to enlarge the page view
  • Highlighter and ability to mark items for review
  • Line reader that highlights a line of text
  • Strikethrough that can be used for the student to cross off answers
  • Keyboard navigation (for students who cannot use the mouse pad)
  • Math tools such an embedded ruler or protractor: A calculator is available from sixth grade (fifth grade for science).
  • Writing tools such as spell check, and thesaurus: Spell check is not available for ELPAC.

Some of these tools won’t be available if your district uses paper testing. In this case, the following universal accommodations are available:

  • Breaks provided by the teacher
  • English dictionary and thesaurus
  • Scratch paper

If these tools are going to be helpful to your child, you need to talk to the teacher about instructing your child to use the tools during statewide testing. They are available to all students as part of the testing program, but the student may need instruction on finding and using them.

CAASPP tools available to instructor-designated students

Designated supports are available to students for whom an educator (or a team of educators with the parent and student) has indicated the need. While these tools do not need to be written into the IEP, it may be helpful to discuss with the teacher if your child will find them helpful. These embedded tools include:

  • Students have the ability to turn off any universal tools.
  • Students can use color contrast to adjust the screen background or font color, which can be helpful for students with attention issues or visual impairments.
  • Illustration glossaries are available for students who are advancing toward English language proficiency or deaf or hard of hearing but who are not proficient in American Sign Language. When this feature is enabled, the student can select a term and see a picture.
  • Masking allows the student to block off distracting content or answers.
  • Mouse pointer allows the administrator to set a larger pointer size and change the color.
  • Streamline provides a streamlined interface of the test in an alternate, simplified sequential format to assist students who have specific learning or reading disabilities or visual impairment. Students should have familiarity interacting with items in streamline format.
  • In text-to-speech (for math questions and ELA items, not for reading passages), the text is read aloud to the student by the program. Students who use text-to-speech will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.
  • For text-to-speech in Spanish for math questions, the text is read aloud in Spanish.
  • Translation of test directions for math questions should only be used for students who are proficient readers in the other language and not proficient in English.
  • Translation in the form of a glossary and a dual language instruction is available for math. This support will increase reading load and cognitive load, and the student may need extra time.

In addition to what is embedded in the program, schools can also provide:

  • Amplification to increase the volume provided in the assessment platform using assistive technology (e.g., headphones, FM System, noise buffers, white noise machines)
  • A bilingual dictionary for the full write portion of an ELA performance task
  • Medical supports, such as a glucose monitor, even if it's a cell phone (but settings or monitoring need to ensure other applications are not being used)
  • Noise buffers such as ear mufflers and white noise to block other sounds
  • A scribe to write answers given by the child or select multiple choice options
  • Separate setting so that the child takes the test in a less distracting environment, such as a learning center, especially if needing adult support

For schools using paper testing, the following can be provided:

  • The test content of online items may be printed with different colors, and color transparencies can be placed over a paper-based assessment.
  • Illustration glossaries, magnification, simplified test directions, translation of test directions, and translations (glossary) can be provided on a PDF that can be printed. For math, Read aloud and Read aloud in Spanish are available.

CAASPP tools available only to students with an IEP or a 504 plan

Finally, there are accommodations that are only available to students who have the need documented in their IEP or 504 plan. (These students may also use the universal tools and designated supports.) IEP and 504 embedded accommodations include:

  • American Sign Language: The content is provided by an ASL video viewed on the same screen. Students may view portions of the ASL video as often as needed.
  • Braille: Text is provided in braille that individuals read with the fingertips. Maps, charts, graphs, diagrams, and illustrations are presented in a raised format (on paper or thermoform). Contracted and noncontracted braille is available; Nemeth and UEB Math code(s) are available for math. For ELA listening passages, a braille transcript of the closed captioning is provided.
  • Closed captioning for ELA listening passages printed text is provided on the computer screen.
  • Speech-to-text: Students can use the embedded voice recognition that allows students to use their voices as input devices to answer the questions. Students may use their own assistive technology devices instead of embedded speech-to-text.
  • Text­-to-speech for reading passages for all ELA passages: This accommodation is appropriate for a very small number of students. Students who use text-to-speech will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

The school can also provide non-embedded accommodations, including:

  • Math tools such as 100s number table, multiplication table (for students with documented dyscalculia), or abacus
  • Calculator for students needing a specialized calculator, such as a braille calculator or a talking calculator (sixth grade for math, fifth grade for science)
  • Alternate response options
  • Print on demand, so passages can be provided on paper and in braille
  • Read aloud for ELA passages by a trained staff member
  • Scribe (for ELA performance task full write) for students with documented significant motor or processing difficulties or a recent injury (such as a broken hand or arm) that makes it difficult to write
  • Speech-to-text for ELA writing, using the student’s own AAC device
  • Word prediction: Students who have documented motor or orthopedic impairments, which severely impairs their ability to write or type. Your child needs to be familiar with using word prediction. They need to have the review and editing skills required of all students and be able to develop planning notes and review their writing.

CAA tools

For the California Alternate Assessment, a much wider choice of supports are available. For the science test, for example, any instructional support specified in the student’s IEP and used in daily instruction may be used for the embedded performance tasks. Note that because of the design of the CAA, many of the embedded supports from the CAASPP are not available as embedded supports within the CAA but can be provided by the school. According to the CAASPP Matrix, these include:

  • American Sign Language videos
  • Audio transcript
  • Braille
  • Calculator
  • Closed captioning
  • English dictionary, glossary, or thesaurus
  • Math tools, such as a ruler or protractor
  • Option to pause or replay audio (for the Listening or Speaking domain)
  • Read aloud in Spanish
  • Science charts or tools
  • Spell check
  • Text-to-speech
  • Translated test directions
  • Translation glossaries
  • Translations

The CAAs and the Alternate ELPAC are administered to students one-on-one by a test examiner. Although most universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations listed in this matrix are available for the CAAs and the Alternate ELPAC through the computer-based testing interface, a student taking the CAAs and Alternate ELPAC may also need additional instructional supports, including giving the assessment in the language of instruction, physical supports, and any resources documented in the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.

For example, in the CAA:

  • The examiner can sign to the student as the language of instruction.
  • The student can use an augmentative and alternative communication device.
  • Non-speaking students can respond with gestures, movements, or vocalizations in place of speech.
  • Eye gaze is acceptable as a way of indicating a response (see Guidance on Using Eye Gaze as an Alternate Response).
  • A change in muscle tone or a change in facial expression as an observed behavior can be an acceptable response.
  • The student can direct an aide or a test examiner to performing physical tasks required by the test.
  • Students can use their own calculator (from fourth grade), 100s number table, or other instructional supports instead of the embedded tools as long as those supports do not impact the test construct.

Finally, the CAASPP Matrix notes that physical supports are also allowed:

  • The test environment can be structured to eliminate distractions for a student who is particularly distractible.
  • Positioning and stabilizing the student can allow for the most controlled movement possible, student comfort, and access to the test platform.

Your school can also apply for approval of an unlisted support. Unlisted resources that do not change the measured construct will result in a valid score. For example, using a dictionary for a reading test is considered to change the construct being measured.

More information on these accommodations can be found in the CAASPP Matrix or the Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines. For easy-to-read tables, check out this resource page.

Similar guidelines for PARCC states are available for PARCC states as well.

To learn more about statewide assessments, read our article Statewide Assessments 101!



CAASPP universal tools

CAASPP tools available to instructor-designated students

CAASPP tools available only to students with an IEP or a 504 plan

CAA tools

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Karen Ford CullUndivided Content Specialist and Writer

With a passion for fostering inclusive education and empowering families in the disability community, Karen Ford Cull brings a wealth of experience as a Content Specialist and Advocate. With a diverse background spanning education, advocacy, and volunteer work, Karen is committed to creating a more inclusive and supportive world for children with disabilities. Karen, her husband, and three sons are committed to ensuring that their son with Down syndrome has every opportunity to lead an enviable life. As the Content Specialist at Undivided, Karen guides writers to produce informative and impactful content that ensures families have access to comprehensive and reliable resources.

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Adelina Sarkisyan, Undivided Writer and Editor
Cathleen Small, Undivided Editor

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