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Frequently Asked Questions about Universal Tools, Designated Supports, and Accommodations

Can any student request to print items/passages from the test?

No.  Only students with a set accommodation in TIDE can use the print on demand feature during a test.  All accommodations require an IEP/504 plan for the student.  Print on demand is not an accommodation that is accessible to the general student population and should not be used as a way to take a test on paper.  For more information please see the Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines.

Are there any supplies that schools need to provide so that universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations can be appropriately implemented?

Schools should determine the number of headphones they will provide (for text-to-speech, as well as for the listening test) and other non-embedded universal tools (e.g., thesaurus), designated supports (e.g., bilingual dictionary), and accommodations (e.g., multiplication table) for students. An alternative is to identify these as items that students will provide on their own.

What are the differences among the three categories of universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations?

Universal tools are access features that are available to all students based on student preference and selection. Designated supports for the Smarter Balanced assessments are those features that are available for use by any student (including English language learners, students with disabilities, and English language learners with disabilities) for whom the need has been indicated by an educator or team of educators (with parent/guardian and student input as appropriate). Accommodations are changes in procedures or materials that increase equitable access during the Smarter Balanced assessments by generating valid assessment results for students who need them and allowing these students the opportunity to show what they know and can do. The Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines identify accommodations for students for whom there is documentation of the need for the accommodations on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 accommodation plan.

Universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations may be either embedded in the test administration system or provided locally (non-embedded).

Which students should use each category of universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations?

Universal tools are available to all students, including those receiving designated supports and those receiving accommodations. Designated supports are available only to students for whom an adult or team (consistent with state-designated practices) has indicated the need for these supports (as well as those students for whom the need is documented). Accommodations are available only to those students with documentation of the need through either an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 accommodation plan. Students who have IEPs or 504 accommodation plans also may use designated supports and universal tools.

What is the difference between embedded and non-embedded approaches? How might educators decide what is most appropriate?

Embedded versions of the universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations are provided digitally through the test delivery system while non-embedded versions are provided at the local level through means other than the test delivery system. The choice between embedded and non-embedded universal tools and designated supports should be based on the individual student’s needs. The decision should reflect the student’s prior use of, and experience with, both embedded and non-embedded universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations. It is important to note that although Print on Demand is a non- embedded accommodation, permission for students to request printing must first be set in Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE).

Who determines how non-embedded accommodations are provided?

IEP teams and educators make decisions about non-embedded accommodations. These teams (or educators for 504 plans) provide evidence of the need for accommodations and ensure that they are noted on the IEP or 504 plan. States are responsible for ensuring that schools follow Smarter Balanced guidance on the implementation of these accommodations.

Are any students eligible to use text-to-speech for ELA reading passages on the Smarter Balanced assessments?

For students in all grades, read-aloud is available on ELA reading passages as a non-embedded accommodation for students whose need is documents on an IEP or 504 plan, subject to each state's laws, regulations, and policies. Text-to-speech is available on reading passages in all grades. Text-to-speech and read-aloud for ELA reading passages is not available for ELLs (unless the student has an IEP or 504 plan). Whenever text-to-speech is used, appropriate headphones must be available to the student, unless the student is tested individually in a separate setting.

What is to be done for special cases of “sudden” physical disability?

One exception to the IEP or 504 requirement is for students who have had a physical injury (e.g., broken hand or arm) that impairs their ability to use a computer. For these situations, students may use the speech-to-text or scribe accommodations (if deemed appropriate based on the student having had sufficient experience with the use of the accommodations).

For the highlighter universal tool, if a student pauses a test for 20-minutes, do the highlighter marks disappear?

If a student is working on a passage or stimulus on a screen and pauses the test for 20 minutes to take a break, the student will still have access to the information visible on that particular screen. However, students do lose access to any information highlighted on a previous screen. Please contact the AOE for further information.

Can universal tools be turned off if it is determined that they will interfere with the student’s performance on the assessment?

Yes. If a TA, TE, or educational team determines that a universal tool might be distracting or that students do not need to or are unable to use them, they can be turned off. This can be done by changing settings in the TA Interface prior to approving student entry into an online test. For additional information on how to change student settings, please see the Test Administrator (TA) User Guide.

For the mark-for-review universal tool, will selections remain visible after a 20-minute break?

If a student takes a break for longer than 20 minutes, the student will not be able to access items from previous screens.

How will the Test Administrator know prior to testing that the print on demand accommodation may be needed?

The test administrator will know this information prior to testing because accommodations need to be documented beforehand and print on demand is an accommodation. Any accommodations – including both embedded and non-embedded accommodations – need to be entered into the TIDE. The print on demand accommodation applies to either passages/stimuli or items, or both.

What is print-on-demand?

Print-on-demand is an accommodation that requires an IEP or 504 plan. This accommodation allows eligible students to request a paper print-out of passages/stimuli and items that would appear on the online assessment. This accommodation should not be used as a replacement for a paper test administration. Refer to the Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines for more information on print-on-demand.