In the past, English learners (ELs), including those with disabilities, were provided access to participation in annual state English language proficiency (ELP) assessments through the use of accommodations. The emphasis on universally designed assessments was applied to ELP assessments just as it was applied to general assessments, as a way to increase access to ELP assessments for all ELLs, including those with disabilities.
Although ELP assessments can be either in a paper-pencil format or a technology-based format, technology-based assessments offer new ways to provide access to all ELLs. Many technology-based assessments are responsive to individual needs and have levels of accessibility features that include:
Universal features such as zoom and highlighting that are either embedded in the assessment and are immediately available for all ELs, or are non-embedded and provided via a human.
Designated features, which may be embedded (such as a picture dictionary or glossary for some domains) or non-embedded (such as English dictionaries), are available to any EL, if needed. These features must be determined before testing so that they can be available to the student.
Accommodations, which are changes in testing materials or procedures that allow students to show their English skills (for example, a scribe to indicate student responses) also may be embedded or non-embedded.
According to regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, states are to develop guidelines for the provision of appropriate ELP assessment accommodations that do not invalidate the scores from the assessment. ELs benefit when states develop clear guidelines.