A girl types at a computer
Lesson plan

Common Core State Standards and Assessment for Students with Visual Impairments

Assessment and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the implications for teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs).

There are several questions regarding assessment of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and there will continue to be answers that shift, as states get closer to implementing the CCSS assessment systems. Presented here is an overview of the information currently being shared and details specific to students, who are blind, low vision or multiply-impaired.

Overview: Assessment of Students Being Served in Special Education

One distinction to make regarding assessment is the difference between accommodation and modification. When educators recommend accommodations a student’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP) it means that the content of the test will not be changed, only aspects of the test presentation or delivery to accommodate a students individualized learning needs.  Accommodations are test adaptions, such as, screen readers or a test printed in braille, but they do not fundamentally change the target skill being assessed.

Testing accommodations can be broken up into five broad categories:

(1) Timing- extended time

(2) Flexible scheduling- giving more days to complete

(3) Accommodated presentation- materials presented in a fashion different then traditional

(4) Setting-quiet room or small group

(5) Response accommodation – orally, scribe, or human reader

(Crawford, 2013)

Modifications are where the assessment is changing the target skills the student is being assessed on. One way to think about it is that teachers need to first identify the “target skill” i.e. going to the standard “clusters” to find the target skill. Then Cranmer abacusidentify the “access” skill. What does the student need to be able to do in order to demonstrate their ability to perform the “target” skill. An example may be, a student needs to have an abacus and know how to use it as his/her “scratch paper” to check his/her work in order to successfully perform the “target” skill of correct addition and subtraction on the CCSS assessment. When IDEA was reauthorized in 2004 with the addition of No Child Left Behind, modification was replaced by accommodation meaning that every student will be assessed (with any needed accommodations determined by a student’s unique learning needs). If a student has a “modified” assessment where the standards are different than those of his or her peers they will be completing an “alternative assessment.” What are examples of ways to modify or create an alternative assessment that will be offered for the upcoming CCSS assessments being implemented?

Issues specific to the field of visual impairment regarding modification and accommodation. A test is still being technically modified when there are accommodation issues during testing administration. Some examples of ways assessments may be unintentionally modified instead of accommodating:


Common Core assessment map

Overview of Programs Creating Assessments to Evaluate the Common Core State Standards

This is an exciting time with 45 states voluntarily adopting the Common Core State Standards and over 40 states and territories voluntarily joining one or both of the two comprehensive assessment consortia. These state-representative assessment consortia are working collaboratively to create assessments that will assess student progress in mastering the Common Core State Standards. These consortia were funded by the federally funded Race to the Top Assessment (RTTTA) initiative. These consortia have three more years to implement comprehensive testing systems in their membership states. States have two years to implement print based testing as they build their technology infrastructure. All the consortia below will be delivered using technology in their final stage of implementation.



(1) Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)  http://parcconline.org/


(2) Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced)  http://smarterbalanced.org/

Key Components (PARCC and Smarter Balance):

Key Differences (PARCC and Smarter Balance):

Additional Assessment Consortia Resources

Are there additional consortia apart from PARCC and Smarter Balanced?

There are three additional consortia that have received RTTTA funding to create assessments related to students being served in special education or students identified as English language learners.

  1. National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) Partnership

Key Components:

       Website: http://www.ncscpartners.org

  1. Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) Alternative Assessment Consortium

Key Components:

       Website: http://dynamiclearningmaps.org/


  1. Assessment Services Supporting English Learners Through Technology Systems (ASSETS) Consortium

Key Components:

       Website: http://www.assets.wceruw.org/

Information Specific to Students with Visual Impairments and/or Multiple Impairments

two boys do a math lesson togetherThere are numerous items to be aware of when thinking of Common Core State Standard Assessment for students who are blind or visually impaired. A couple important assessment questions to ask yourself as you come up with a plan for each of your students:

(1) Will my student require an alternative assessment when evaluated on their mastery of the Common Core State Standards?

(2) Will my student require one or more of the five broad categories of accommodations on the upcoming computer delivered CCSS assessments?

(3) Which consortia is my state part of and where can I go to access practice assessment resources to make sure my student has all the accommodations needed?

(4) Have I planned enough to ensure all accommodations are in place during any interim or benchmarking CCSS assessments?

(5) Did the IEP team discuss CCSS assessments and create a detailed and clear plan regarding any accommodations needed for the annual summative CCSS assessment?

Assistive Technology and CCSS Testing

For all grade levels, students will need to have enough technology “access” skills in order to successfully complete CCSS assessments. When/if students need accommodations in this area, IEP/504 teams need explicit and detailed accommodations listed. For students who require “modified” assessments the same clear IEP instructions will need to be listed and clearly represented in order to ensure student success. Similar to the questions above, it will be important for IEP teams to come up with an additional assistive technology plan for any student who is not currently using any technology to access their educational programs. In cases where it is most appropriate for a student to have a human reader deliver the CCSS assessment step by step to him or her, then that plan must be clearly outlined in the IEP plan.

Important to note, that often times service professional facilitating testing for a student who is blind or visually impaired is often times his or her teacher of students with visual impairments. When or if possible, investigate the potential for assistive technology for students so TVIs can be spending valuable teaching time working on IEP goals with their students. Students will also be experiencing a much greater level of independence if they are able to complete CCSS computerized assessments with the aid of assistive technology, such as, screen readers, notetakers, mobile devices, and the like.

CCSS assessment for students who are visually impaired


By Tara Mason

Ish book cover with an illustration of a child running with a paintbrush and text: Peter H Reynolds

“Ish” book: Drawing, estimating, and digital table activities

Image of the graphed y = sin(x) equation

Understanding Desmos: Sonification lessons

Black and white image of a lion

Safari animal sounds: ePub and tactile graphic activities