On July 21st, Dr. Shanahan awarded the Lindsay Lohan award to the PARCC consortium for its poor decision on allowing its reading test to be read to struggling readers. Namely, PARCC has permitted a read-to accommodation for K-12 learners identified for special education services with mild to moderate disabilities. See a snapshot of PARCC’s April version of the Assessment and Accommodations Manual and its June version of the PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual (PARCC, April 2013; June 2013).
It is important to note that PARCC stated, “the accommodations listed … neither change the construct measured by the test [construct validity], nor the claims of PARCC tests (for example, that a student can “read and comprehend a variety of texts independently”) when [accommodations] are used only by the very small number of students who are unable to access the tests and/or provide responses without their use, and who use these accommodations routinely during instruction”(p. 44, April, 2013).
The general rule for using testing accommodations is if the student’s specialized instruction included a read-to accommodation, then the student’s assessment should include a read-to accommodation as well. As a result of this precept, the reading instruction that many struggling readers primarily receive is chock full of read-to accommodations and reading strategies instead of reading instruction that builds a student’s knowledge base. There is no wonder as to why struggling readers fundamentally learn to depend upon the read-to accommodation; ultimately never learning to fully read for themselves.
As Shanahan argued, the read-to accommodation inevitably changes the construct of the reading test to that of a listening test, unavoidably reducing the validity and reliability of PARCC’s ELA test and PARCC’s claim that a student can “read and comprehend a variety of texts independently”.
Still, if educators and special educators really want to foster reading independence and not listening comprehension in students with disabilities, then they will have to use instructional practices such as close reading, reading of complex text, and repeated reading consistently during the academic year in order to scaffold struggling readers to self-sufficient reading. In other words, teachers must avoid the mitigation of written text and indulge in textual mediation.
Therefore, I agree with Dr. Shanahan on presenting the Lindsay Lohan award to the PARCC consortium for the following reasons: according to Luke & Schwartz (2010),
(1) the research “does not provide definitive answers to guide thoughtful policy and practice in [the] area [of testing accommodations] (Chiu & Pearson, 1999; Johnstone, Altman, Thurlow, & Thompson, 2006; Koenig & Bachman, 2004; Sireci et al., 2003; Tindal & Fuchs, 1999; Thompson, Blount, & Thurlow, 2002). Considering the very real implications related to the use of accommodations and their extensive application across testing environments, the lack of conclusive direction from the research base is both disappointing and frustrating” (2013).
Since there is no conclusive direction or definitive answers on testing accommodations, PARCC States can take this opportunity to start fresh with the new PARCC assessments and measure student achievement without a read-to accommodation. This would provide parents with a true picture of their child’s performance levels in literacy and it would further validate PARCC’s performance level descriptors.
(2) Accommodations affect test scores for students with disabilities, lowering scores in some cases, raising scores in most others (Chiu & Pearson, 1999; Elliott et al., 1999; Elliott, Kratochwill, & McKevitt, 2001; Kettler et al., 2005; McKevitt, 2000; Koenig & Bachman, 2004; Schulte, Elliott, & Kratochwill, 2001; Tindal, Heath, Hollenbeck, Almond, & Harniss, 1998). Lowered scores appear to result when accommodations are poorly matched to student need or when the student has not had sufficient opportunity to practice using an accommodation in day-to-day settings prior to the testing situation.
If accommodations are having these types of affects on student scores, then shouldn’t educators and special educators reconsider their usage of them? Moreover, if students are being poorly matched with accommodations, then perhaps they are also being poorly matched with reading instruction.
(3)The use of read-aloud accommodations on assessments of mathematics for students with low reading skills and the use of Braille for blind students were found to be the most effective accommodations in a meta-analytic synthesis by Tindal & Fuchs (1999).
Because Tindal and Fuchs’ (1999) meta-analytic synthesis did not find the usage of accommodations on reading tests among the most effective, one could assume that the accommodations used for reading are not necessarily minimizing the impact of the student’s disability on his or her reading achievement. Hence, is there really a need for a read-to accommodation on a reading test?
If PARCC really wants to provide educators and parents with a true measure of a student’s reading ability based on the CCSS assessments, then PARCC should reconsider their Special Access Accommodations for Students with Disabilities and rely more heavily on the Universally Designed Embedded Supports and Accessibility Features for All Students, enhancing the reliability and validity of the PARCC tests and helping educators better serve struggling readers.
In my humble judgement, I’m sure Dr. Shanahan would agree with me on the following notion:
PARCC could be awarded the Samuel L. Jackson achievement award for the highest-grossing consortium in readership by eliminating the read-to accommodation on its assessment for the sake of maximizing testing independence. Samuel L. Jackson is a model of good choices and decent judgments. His smart decisions have influenced his talent, wealth, and most importantly his relationships. He is Hollywood’s embodiment of smart decision making (type “highest grossing actor of all time” into Google and see how fast his name comes up). Given that, it is fitting to name an award for good judgment after him since he holds the Guinness World Record for highest-grossing actor ever.
By and large, one could argue that students who are deemed Career and College Ready by the PARCC assessments who have received a read-to accommodation would also need to receive a read-to accommodation in college or technical school. (I don’t think we can count on many professors and instructors in traditional colleges and technical schools to deliver that type of accommodation to their learners.) Hence, eliminating the read-to accommodation would require educators and special educators alike to adopt reading instructional practices that encourage struggling readers to read independently. On the other hand, adding a read-to accommodation to the PARCC reading tests changes the construct validity and testing reliability as it works to sweeten up the reading scores of the local education agencies who administer the PARCC measures. Hence, as Samuel L. Jackson’s Trip character in the movie Juice (1992) stated, (a fact that PARCC should consider) “Just ’cause you pour syrup on something doesn’t make it pancakes!” In other words, just because you add a read-to accommodation to an assessment doesn’t make the student an independent reader.
Luke, S. D., & Schwartz, A. (2010, October). Assessment and Accommodations. Retrieved from National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities: http://nichcy.org/research/ee/assessment-accommodations
PARCC (2013, April 17). PARCC Draft Accommodations Manual. Retrieved from Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC): http://ca539dfd55636c55e922-fd4c048d1c793e15a27f954b34a49d25.r49.cf1.rackcdn.com/PARCCDraftAccommodationsManualforSWDEL.pdf
PARCC (2013, June 19). PARCC Accessibility features and Accommodations Manuel. Retrieved from Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC): http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCCDraftAccessibilityFeaturesandAccommodationsManual61913finalGB.pdf
Shanahan, T. (2013, July 21). The Lindsay Lohan Award for Poor Judgment or Dopey Doings in the Annals of Testing. Retrieved from Shanahan on Literacy: http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/2013/07/the-lindsay-lohan-award-for-poor.html