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New ELA test policy approved

Students with reading disabilities will now have a chance to demonstrate what they know on New York State English language arts assessments, thanks to a new state policy that will allow the entire test — not just directions — to be read aloud to them.

“This is a really big deal,” said Maggie Moroff, the coordinator of the Action for Reform in Special Education Coalition (ARISE), of which the UFT is a member. “It allows the student with a reading disability to demonstrate his or her ability to comprehend material.”

Under the previous policy, students who had Individualized Education Programs that specified tests be read aloud to them — by a person or assistive technology — had that accommodation on school and city tests — but not on the state ELA assessments for grades 3–8. Beginning with the 2017 administration of the ELA tests, they will have this accommodation.

Moroff said the new policy still requires an evaluation to determine whether the student “really needs the test to be read aloud.”

UFT Vice President for Special Education Carmen Alvarez said the accommodation had been long sought — and was long overdue. Students in grade 3 are making the transition from learning to read, to reading to learn. Yet for many public school students taking the state ELA tests who cannot read or are poor readers, the test became a reading test, Alvarez said, and the students had no opportunity to demonstrate other literacy skills, such as identifying the main idea in a passage, making inferences and discussing characters and plot development.

“Their reading disability basically stopped them dead in their tracks,” said Alvarez. “This new policy will let these students demonstrate what they know and can do in a whole variety of areas.”

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