Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended guidelines for accessible assessments in school.
Accessible Assessments in School
The Committee recommends policies and processes to ensure that assessments are fair for students with disabilities. The Ministry of Education and school boards should create these policies and processes, to remove barriers students face during assessments. For instance, students should not face barriers during:
- Provincial assessments
- Accessible formats or communication supports, such as:
- More time to process and respond to questions
- A quiet location
- Accessible hardware or software to write tests
All these accommodations should be in place for students who need them, in a timely and equitable manner. For example, accessible-format versions of tests should be available at the same time as print tests. Therefore, school boards should have policies in place to arrange these accommodations in advance.
Many staff members may be involved in ensuring accessible assessments. Classroom teachers may need to work with other staff, such as:
Staff of resource rooms or other quiet spaces
Sign Language interpreters
Teachers of the blind or visually impaired
All these educators should be involved in creating and implementing accessible assessment policies. Moreover, the Ministry and school boards should develop guides, resources, and training for staff on designing and delivering accessible assessments.
When students experience assessments without barriers, they have the same opportunity for success as their non-disabled classmates.
Accessible Assessments to Identify Disability Needs
In addition to assessments in class, some students may also receive assessments to identify their disability-related needs. These assessments help students and their families understand what the students’ accessibility needs are. Furthermore, results also help school staff better support the student by providing appropriate accommodations. For example, students may need professional psycho-educational assessments to identify learning disabilities, and what subjects these disabilities affect.
However, many barriers prevent students from receiving these assessments in a timely manner. These barriers include shortages of professionals to perform the assessments, and long waiting lists. As a result, the Committee recommends that school boards should partner with external service providers to access timely assessments. Similarly, school boards should keep records about the number and types of assessments their students need, so that the Ministry of Education can take steps to make more assessments available.
Finally, while a student waits for an assessment, their school board must accommodate the student’s needs. While staff may not know exactly what those needs are, they can observe the student in class, and try various accommodations, to help determine how the student learns best. For example, while a student waits for diagnosis of a hearing disability, their teacher may provide speaking notes during lectures, and show videos with captions. These proactive accommodations can support the student’s ongoing learning.