This blog was written by Michelle L. Oetman, Senior Program Manager for ACR GCD. It was originally published on the Girls’ Education Challenge website on 30 May 2023.
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) and the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), have released a groundbreaking technical brief titled “Towards Equity in Assessment: Making Standardized Learning Assessments more accessible for Learners with Disabilities”. The document highlights valuable lessons, insights and recommendations from the experiences of implementers, assessment designers and researchers who included learners with disabilities in standardised learning assessments. The brief aims to promote inclusivity in education and help funders, implementers and researchers ensure that learning assessments more accurately and reliably measure the learning outcomes of all children, including those with disabilities.
“Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive in education is critical and a priority for the All Children Reading Grand Challenge. This technical brief provides essential guidance for creating more inclusive learning assessments,” said Michelle Oetman, Senior Program Manager for ACR GCD and an author of the brief. “Our hope is that the information shared in this document will inspire, inform and transform the development of future assessments that better serve the needs of learners with disabilities.”
Technical guidance for inclusive assessments
Learners with disabilities have historically been excluded from formal and informal education systems and educational activities, including learning assessments. These exclusionary practices have substantially impacted the education system’s ability to accurately assess the learning of people with disabilities, and the ability and opportunity of learners with disabilities to achieve their learning potential.
With global priorities like Sustainable Development Goal 4 and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, appropriate assessment tools are critical to ensure the full participation and success of children with disabilities. Additionally, obtaining accurate and reliable learning outcome data for all learners is essential for evaluating cost-effectiveness, ensuring donor accountability and measuring overall success.
For the first time, the experiences and learnings of funders and implementers who have sought to create inclusive learning assessments for learners with disabilities are now captured in dedicated technical guidance. The document not only includes the valuable experience of the authoring organisations but also features insights from more than a dozen key informant interviews with funders, implementers and researchers. By incorporating this range of perspectives and experiences from around the world, the technical brief addresses the varied learnings, perspectives and needs related to comprehensive guidance on inclusive learning assessments.
Key learnings and recommendations
The brief captures the steps taken by projects to design and adapt learning assessments to make them accessible to learners with disabilities. Derived from key informant interviews and a literature review, significant learnings and recommendations cover pre-design, stakeholder engagement, accommodations and modifications, piloting of assessments, assessor selection and adaptation considerations for reading assessments tailored to learners with disabilities, and specifically for learners who are blind, low vision, deaf or hard of hearing. The brief also outlines key recommendations for promoting more accessible, valid and reliable learning assessment for learners with disabilities.
A key resource for the education sector
The education sector has seen significant efforts by many countries to increase access to and the quality of education for children with disabilities, but myriad challenges still need to be addressed to achieve this goal. A recent World Bank review of learning assessments revealed that learners with disabilities were largely excluded from assessments in low-income contexts.
The authoring organisations believe the brief holds the potential to enhance the education sector by fostering a more inclusive and equitable learning environment. This brief aims to serve as a key and valuable resource for policymakers, implementers, assessment designers and researchers in low and middle-income contexts who seek to make low and medium-stakes standardised summative learning assessments more inclusive. The brief also outlines a longer-term aspiration that inclusive education systems provide universally designed curriculum and assessments, equitable access and equitable opportunities.
“The authors believe that the learnings featured in this paper, and the future actions of organisations who build on the lessons and progress outlined in this brief, can move the entire education ecosystem along the pathway to achieving this important goal,” said Aimee Reeves, GEC Evaluation Lead and an author of the brief.
Milestone in inclusive education
The brief signifies a major milestone and enduring contribution and achievement for both authoring organisations.
ACR GCD, a 12-year initiative ending in September, has evolved into one of the largest innovation funds for inclusive education. Under its focus on enhancing literacy learning for children with disabilities, the Grand Challenge has spurred the development of some of the first adapted assessments in braille and sign language in several underserved languages and scaled the sustainable production of accessible books and sign language materials. ACR GCD is also collaborating with Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) in the development of soon-to-be released Standards for Sign Language Storybooks. Free, open source resources like these serve as a valuable legacy, benefiting everyone working in the international inclusive education sector.
Launched in 2012 by the FCDO, GEC has been dedicated to transforming the lives of the world’s most marginalised girls through access to quality education and learning opportunities. The organisation aims to share learnings like the brief to help improve the delivery of girls’ education, creating a legacy that will support future practice, policy, program design and research.
Learn more about the brief:
Key learnings and recommendations from the technical brief will be presented by the authors during ACR GCD’s upcoming virtual and in-person EdTech Expos in July and September. Visit AllChildrenReading.org/Events for more information. To contact the authoring organisations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org