2006 Conference General Sessions

HIGH STAKES COMPUTER BASED ACCESSIBLE TESTING FOR STUDENTS WITH A WIDE RANGE OF DISABILITIES

Presenter(s)
Dave Schleppenbach
gh, LLC
1305 Cumberland Avenue Suite 105
West Lafayette IN 47906
Day Phone: 765-775-3776
Fax: 765-775-2501
Email: engage@gh—accessibility.com

 

Providing accessible testing solutions has become vital as the No Child Left Behind Act has made schools subject to strict accountability for the educational progress of all students, including those with disabilities. Greater awareness of technologies that help educators individualize both access to knowledge as well as the ability to conduct testing is becoming more wide spread. These new tools permit students to access information in a way that fully supports their individual learning styles and increases their ability to demonstrate their knowledge of the material they have studied. The demand to turn around results in a more rapid manner is also driving the move to computer based testing. The ability to take, record and score tests more quickly and efficiently allows state education departments to move testing to later in the year, therefore enhancing the potential performance of their student populations.

Computer based accessible tests can be generated at two levels: high stakes tests for standardized state assessments and, low stakes tests for materials that require less security and are used for in classroom tests and quizzes.

High-stakes computer based tests require that tests appear as close in appearance as the printed version. This entails presenting all content, formatting and images as they appear in print. Standardized tests also require multiple answer types that must be emulated. These include multiple choice, gridded response and text box input. All of which are needed to ensure the validity of the test process. In addition a high level of test security is required to maintain the integrity of the test during the testing period as well as during the test creation, data collection and evaluation periods.

Low Stakes testing typically have less stringent security demands and require that tests and quizzes be created on demand for classroom use.

This presentation is directed to high stakes testing solutions
The ability of computer based tests to permit each student to take the test independently eliminates the need for proctors having to read or answer questions for the students. With each student able to manipulate the test themselves, they are able to progress through the test at their own rate, review questions as they wish, and are not potentially directed by human intervention.

 

Test taking productivity is also enhanced if each student can use the same Assistive technology they use each day in the classroom. For students with mobility impairments the opportunity to use the same head mouse, switch and associated software to interface with a test eliminates concerns that the student has to focus more effort on taking the test than on evaluating the content. Accessible computer based testing permits students with a range of print disabilities to take advantage of features and allowable accommodations that enhance their ability to successfully take the test on their own. Specific features include:

 

 

Blind

Advanced computer generated speech
Choice of different voices for test content and software functions

Higher clarity and greater word recognition with human-like pronunciation
Easily distinguish between test content and test applications

Low Vision

High resolution magnification
Adjust background and text color for test content

Crystal clear text without loss of clarity
Improves contrast for ease of reading

Learning and
Cognitive
Disabled

On-screen highlighting by word, sentence, and section
Synchronized text and speech

Visual tracking and synchronized speech maintain focus on content and assist in word recognition

Mobility Impaired

Integration of user’s assistive technology
Keyboard shortcuts and simplified keystrokes

Eliminates learning new interface devices and speeds up test taking
Navigate the test and confirm answers with greater ease

Accessible Testing System (ATS)
To best understand the Accessible Testing System, the following software architecture diagram is useful:

pict2.jpg

ATS Core Technology
The base technology of the system is the Accessible Testing System core technology, which is the patent-pending IP developed by gh over the past 4 years. This technology provides a basic feature set for any particular implementation which includes but is not limited to the following:
• XML parsing and file management for test content
• “skin-able” GUI for custom-built applications
• Core accessibility features such as Text-To-Speech, Synchronized Highlighting, keyboard or mouse control, and non-standard input device control
• Basic test navigation and management features, such as previous/next question, section breaks, and question review
• Student management and proctor controls, to turn on/off features and enable/disable test content
• Security and encryption features for protection of test content and student data
• Backup and fault-tolerant behavior including saving of state in the event of power failure
• Student data collection and management, and network communication protocols for transmittal of secure test and student data
• Accessibility “Hooks” for the inclusion of basic tools for student use, such as calculators, word prediction and supplemental software into the core system
• A set of basic tools including calculators, math grid and word prediction
 
User Interface
The second “layer” of the ATS is the custom User Interface, also known as the GUI “skin”. This is meant to be customized for the individual client or application. Custom skins can contain the desired marketing information, a consistent “look and feel” with the existing mainstream EBT products, and also specific test performance requirements. Test navigation, proctor controls, tools, student profiles, and other high-level features can be customized to meet the individual needs of each customer while retaining the accessibility and security of the core ATS. Custom “skins” are developed for each application based on the input of the customer development team.

Test Content
Finally, the top “layer” of the ATS is the actual test content itself. The ATS is designed to handle multiple tests at any given time. Test content is authored by the test provider, and then sent to gh for conversion into the accessible XML content as described above. Upon deployment, student data will be sent back directly to the test provider for grading in its’ existing grading mechanism (with the rare exception in the case of certain severely disabled students in which certain items must be hand-graded).

High Quality TTS Voices
A variety of high quality TTS voices are available for each test. By using different voices, typically one male and one female, test content can be more easily differentiated from test application information. Having high quality TTS voices ensures that the punctuation of test items is flawless (for those students requiring speech as an accommodation). Obviously, flawless pronunciation and clarity is critical in a testing environment. Voices are domain-tuned to the test content so that the quality and clarity is nearly impossible to distinguish from human speech.

Supplemental Materials
For individuals with vision impairments the XML-based electronic test file is supported by Large Print, Braille, Verbal Descriptive Narratives and tactile images that provide a comprehensive test taking experience for each student. Through these supplemental materials questions that can not be communicated effectively on a computer monitor can be represented through other media giving the student full comprehension of the test content.


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