February 2002

To:

District Superintendents

Superintendents of Public and Nonpublic Schools

Superintendents of State-Operated and State-Supported Schools

Principals of Public and Nonpublic Schools

Site Coordinators for Regional Scoring

Directors of Special Education

Chairpersons of Committees on Special Education

SETRC Professional Development Specialists
From: Rita D. Levay
Manager, Special Education Policy
Gerald E. DeMauro

Coordinator, State Assessment Office

Subject: Changes in Allowable Testing Accommodations on Elementary and Intermediate-Level Tests, Effective September 2002

This memorandum provides specific information on testing accommodations for students with disabilities when taking New York State elementary and intermediate-level tests. The changes described in this memorandum apply only to elementary and intermediate-level tests in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics and become effective beginning with the 2002-2003 school year. These changes do not apply to elementary and intermediate-level assessments in other subjects or to any of the secondary-level tests.

Currently, the Department permits the following testing accommodations on the State’s elementary and intermediate assessments in English language arts and mathematics:

  1. Oral reading or signing of reading passages (not listening selections), multiple choice questions, and/or extended response items;
  2. Use of a calculator or abacus on mathematics tests measuring calculation skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division;
  3. Use of a spell/grammar checking device on tests measuring spelling and/or grammar; and
  4. Deletion of spelling, paragraphing and/or punctuation requirements on tests assessing spelling and/or grammar.

Use of these testing accommodations on certain sections of these tests change the construct of the test and yield inaccurate scores. As a result, the student may be denied appropriate and needed supports such as Academic Intervention Services. Additionally, testing accommodations that change constructs yield scores that do not provide teachers with valid information upon which to guide instruction.

As a result, effective September 2002 and thereafter, testing accommodations that alter the measurement of a construct will no longer be permitted on elementary and intermediate-level State assessments. Analysis of the constructs underlying the existing elementary and intermediate-level State tests indicate that for many of the tests no changes are needed. However, for the elementary and intermediate-level State tests in ELA and mathematics, it will be necessary to make some changes in the accommodations permitted. A description of these changes with respect to each of the tests is provided below.

Grades 4 & 8 ELA

Reading

  1. All directions/items/questions within the Grade 4 ELA Session 2, Part 1 and Grade 8 ELA Session 1, Part 2: Listening part of the test (including the listening selection) may be read aloud to the student.
  2. All directions, instructions/items/questions within Session 2, Part 2: Writing may be read aloud to the student.
  3. No other parts of the student test books may be read to students.

Writing

  1. Students may not use spell-checking and/or grammar-checking devices on any parts of the ELA test. (Spelling and grammar are not assessed on multiple choice or short answer items. Spelling and grammar are only assessed on extended writing items such as those found within the Grade 4 ELA Session 2: Part 1; Session 2: Part 2; or Session 3; or in the Grade 8 ELA Session 1: Part 2; Session 2: Part 1; or Session 2: Part 2.)
  2. Students may not have requirements for spelling, paragraphing and/or punctuation (writing mechanics) waived for the extended writing items found within the Grade 4 ELA Session 2: Part 1; Session 2: Part 2; or Session 3; or in the Grade 8 ELA Session 1: Part 2; Session 2: Part 1; or Session 2: Part 2. (Other parts of the test do not assess writing mechanics.)

Grade 4 Mathematics

Because this test measures students' proficiencies involving basic calculations, the use of calculators will not be allowed for all students.

Grade 8 Mathematics

Because Book 1 of this test assesses proficiencies involving basic calculations, the use of calculators for this section of the test will not be allowed for any students. The use of calculators will continue to be permitted on Book 2 of the test for all students.

Grade 4 Elementary level Science; Grade 5 Social Studies Test; Grade 8 Intermediate level Science and Social Studies and Intermediate level Technology Education tests

There will be no changes in the accommodations permitted for any of these tests. These tests do not assess reading or writing mechanics. Therefore, the entire test must be read aloud to students with disabilities whose Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Accommodation Plan (504 Plan) requires this accommodation. Additionally, spell checking and grammar-checking devices must be provided for students with disabilities and students should not be penalized for spelling, grammar and/or punctuation requirements if the IEP or 504 Plan requires these accommodations.

These tests do not assess calculation skills. The use of calculators will continue to be allowed on the Grade 4 and 8 Science and Technology Education tests for all students. Students with disabilities will continue to be allowed to use calculators, if so indicated in the IEP or 504 Plan, when taking the elementary and intermediate-level assessments in social studies.

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For more information on determining the skills and knowledge measured on specific tests, refer to the test blueprints (usually in the test sampler information). These are available on the Office of State Assessment webpage. Questions regarding information in this memorandum may be directed to the State Assessment Office at (518) 474-5099 or the Special Education Policy Development Unit at (518) 473-2878.

NOTE: The above changes will not be implemented until the 2002-2003 school year in order to allow Committees on Special Education sufficient time to amend students’ Individualized Education Programs as appropriate. These changes will result in greater consistency across the State, and school districts and nonpublic schools will also have valid and reliable results from elementary/intermediate examinations for evaluation of the progress of students with disabilities in meeting the learning standards.