Our students face a series of important assessments that play a pivotal role in their educational journey. Whether a student is taking the ELA or Math CAASPP, the ELPAC, the ICA/IAB interim assessments, or the new CAST science test, we want to make sure every student has the opportunity to best demonstrate their learning!
To help make this possible, California has incorporated a host of accessibility tools into all of these online assessments. These tools are designed to level the playing field while accommodating students' unique learning needs.
In this quick guide, we'll focus on tools that are available to ALL students (also known as Universal Tools), with special emphasis on tools useful to English learners.
English Glossary (ELA, Math & Science) and Dictionary (ELA Only)
Did you know your students can look up unfamiliar words while they're testing? More importantly, do your students know that they can do this? All students can access an inline English Glossary on all CAASPP tests. In addition, students taking the ELA CAASPP specifically can also look up words in a Merriam-Webster Dictionary by clicking on the "Dictionary" button at the top of their testing screen.
Of course the glossary won't define all terms - like a crucial term that would help reveal an answer - but imagine how helpful these tools can be for your students, especially your English learners who may lack the vocabulary needed to decipher questions, passages, and prompts.
Highlighter and Strikethrough (ELA, Math, Science & ELPAC)
Remember when you used to take paper-and-pencil tests when you were a youngster? You may have been taught to underline key phrases within test questions or passages. Perhaps you learned to cross out unnecessary information, wrong answer choices, etc. Today, students can use the Highlighter and Strikethrough tools to mark up the text on their testing screens.
Digital Notepad (ELA, Math, Science & ELPAC)
Sometimes students need a place to map out their thoughts or plan out their response to test questions that require complex responses. The Digital Notepad is perfect for this! Each question has its own separate Notepad window, which students can access while they are working on a specific item. Note that on the CAASPP, Notepad notes are not saved when the student moves on to another segment, or after a break of more than 20 minutes.
Breaks (ELA, Math, Science & ELPAC)
Speaking of Breaks, never underestimate the power of giving students a short breather! Breaks are a universal tool, just as important as all of the others. There is no limit to the number of breaks a student may take while they are working on the CAASPP or ELPAC. Keep in mind, however, that breaks longer than 20 minutes will result in blocking the student's access to previously-attempted questions. The best practice is to encourage students to only pause their test at the end of a test segment.
Calculator (Math & Science, Specific Grades Only)
When appropriate to the task, students have access to a Calculator. For Math, the Calculator is available only for students in Grades 6-8 and 11. For Science, the Calculator can be used by students in Grades 5, 8, and 10-12. While elementary students are limited to a simple four-function calculator, students in grades 8-12 are given a scientific calculator. Be sure to give your students plenty of practice using the appropriate type of calculator so they will use this important tool to their advantage when testing!
For more information about Universal Tools, as well as the more specialized Designated Supports and Accommodations available to students with identified special learning needs, check out these resources from the California Department of Education: