2003 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 


MEETING THE NEED FOR EXAM ACCOMMODATIONS USING KURZWEIL 3000 IN THE HIGHER ED ARENA

Presenter
Janet De Senzo
C/o Inclusive TLC
315 Wooton St.
Boonton, NJ 07005
973 331-9898 ext. 205
Email: jantech@nac.net

The number of students attending college and struggling with reading difficulties grows each year. As such, disability service coordinators struggle to find new ways to offer equal opportunities for learning - to level the playing field for those with reading comprehension issues, dyslexia, and other reading problems. For these students, a written test given under standard classroom testing procedures often does not reflect an accurate measurement of knowledge. This presents a huge barrier to success within the higher ed setting.

Many of these students request testing accommodations such as extended time and having tests read orally. This is often considered to be a "reasonable accommodation" but for those institutions with small disability offices and limited staff, it presents a huge problem.

This presenter was faced with such a problem. As former coordinator of disability services at William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, she faced the need for over 40 students to have tests read aloud during each exam session. With limited staff availability and faculty who were often unsympathetic, a successful alternative was found through the use of assistive technology, specifically, Kurzweil 3000.

Students who qualified for oral exams as an accommodation under section 504 or the Americans with Disabilities Act were told that as of the spring 1998 semester, oral exams would only be administered via the computer. Workshops were offered to both students and faculty to explain the new procedures for exams to be administered through the Office of Disability Services. Faculty clearly understood, that if they adhered to the procedures of the new Testing Center, the integrity of their exams would not be compromised. Procedures were established for the scheduling, transport and administration of all exams to be completed in the Testing Center.

All eligible students also attended training sessions to learn how to use the Kurzweil 3000 program, not only to complete tests, but also to increase comprehension of classroom reading assignments. Additional Kurzweil systems were eventually added to the library to assist students with their research, both in printed form and via the internet. Extended use of the Kurzweil 3000 system often resulted in better grades and more highly motivated students. These students showed increased accountability for their own learning and improved self-esteem.

Establishing such a system involves the cooperation of both faculty and staff with support from the administration. Also, many students had learned to become dependent upon others for their learning and were less than enthusiastic about taking responsibility for their own education.

This presentation will address the process of establishing a university testing center, establishing reasonable testing accommodations as noted in the guidelines of AHEAD and incorporating the use of text to speech software in the testing process. Sample forms will be included as handouts and faculty issues will be addressed. Means of test transport including e-mail, will be discussed. Attendees will also be encouraged explore new ways to meet the needs of their learning disabled students through use of text to speech software.

CLOSING NOTES:

Janet De Senzo is a certified pre-school and elementary school teacher with an M.A. in Education/Language Arts. Prior to working for Tom Caine and Associates/Inclusive TLC, she was employed as the Coordinator of Disability Services at William Paterson University for approximately six years. Her responsibilities included establishing accommodation procedures for students with a wide variety of disabilities. The number of students requesting accommodations through the ODS office rose from 61 (upon hiring) to more than 110 in six years.

Kurzweil 3000 is still being utilized at the University and Janet often returns to visit students and staff she left behind. The policies and procedures of the testing center are still in place and are being used successfully by many students.

References:

Roland Watts, Associate Dean of Students, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ 973 720-2818.

James Mahon, Associate Professor of Sociology, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ 973 720-2000.


Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings


Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.