me and ry smallAh yes…standardized assessments. Regardless of their limitations, they are here to stay and students deserve to be prepared for them. So, what can UDL educators do? They can be upfront and honest about the true purpose of testing, teach students important test taking strategies, and scaffold coping strategies so students are not anxious about test administration. Other than that, the best we can do is teach them the standards and keep our expectations high. If we teach them to think critically, and help them learn the content and the methods outlined in the standards, they will be successful. We have to believe that.

Many standardized assessments that students are required to take contain barriers that may prevent them from being successful. For example, many tests are now computer-based, timed, and require keyboarding skills and technological skills that may be obstacles for students. Although there are barriers, we must be prepared to universally design our preparation for these tests, and other assessments, so our students can access them. In short, we have to teach in an accessible way so students can succeed on an inaccessible test.

  1. Before you begin to select optional resources, consider the requirements of the Every Student Succeed Act, that note that standardized assessments must be universally designed. Now, read this article from the National Education Association about how ESSA will improve standardized assessments.
  2. Time for Options! Choose at least one of the following resources to read about standardized testing through the UDL lens and consider how standardized assessments will have to be improved through ESSA (thank goodness!).
    • Read an article, Perspectives on UDL and Assessment (9 pages): This is a really thoughtful piece on how large scale assessments create barriers for many students and also discusses research being done to make assessments more accessible in the future. ESSA will push this work forward faster.
    • Read a chapter, “Using UDL to Accurately Assess Student Progress” from Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age which discusses what teachers should consider before designing assessments. The article also discusses large scale assessments.
    • CAST (the UDL gurus) commented on the PARCC Accommodation Manual in this brief, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment in this brief, citing specific areas in need of improvement. Definitely an interesting read when thinking about what it would really mean to universally design a large scale assessment.
    • Read the top 10 UDL Tips for Assessment, published by CAST. Check out #3 and learn about the Mood Meter. It’s pretty cool!!
    • Check out Durham College’s page that discusses how UDL can be used in college assessments (this would be a great choice for high school teachers!) There are a couple of great exemplars to explore as well as an audio file that is used as a means of representation for an assessment.