**This is the first in a series of 3 posts on SBAC Badger test supports.
I recently posted about some of the technology skills necessary to complete the SBAC - Badger assessment in a few months. High stakes online assessments are relatively new for everyone in Wisconsin; and the idea can be overwhelming. But, these online assessments do more than supplant paper assessments with online assessments; these new assessments have some embedded benefits. Support tools are available that can only be easily made available using technology are accessible to a wider variety of students. Much like the tiered notion of RtI, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has built in supports at three different levels: Universal, Designated Supports and Accommodations. The SBAC also uses the terms embedded and non-embedded. After researching the resources on the DPI website, these terms can be simply differentiated by thinking of embedded supports as those that are on the computer within the SBAC browser; while non-embedded supports are things that are in our real time and space - materials students can manipulate or human support.
Universal Supports are available to all students, regardless of whether or not they have an IEP, 504 Plan, accommodation plan or documented disability. Some of the examples of embedded Universal Supports are: scheduled breaks, on-screen calculator, online English dictionary and glossary, spell check, zoom, highlighter and strikethrough for multiple choice questions. Embedded universal supports also include expandable passages to allow students to show a passage or stimulus on a larger portion of the screen; a clear/empty digital notepad for each item; a global notepad for full-write ELA performance tasks that retains information from segment to segment for all of the items relating to one passage. Students are able to use keyboard shortcuts, like down arrow, to navigate the screen, mark items for review, and utilize various on-screen math and writing tools. Non-embedded Universal tools include access to a paper dictionary and thesaurus, scratch paper, and breaks.
Already at the universal support level there are many tools available to students to utilize on the assessment. Examining the list closely will reveal that some of the same good test-taking strategies teachers have taught are applicable to this online assessment as well. Using highlighters to highlight important information in a passage is a good study technique regardless of if it is on the computer or on paper; using strikethrough to eliminate incorrect distractors is a good test-taking strategy regardless of if it is a high-stakes state assessment or a quick, ungraded formative assessment in the classroom. As these study skills and test-taking strategies are taught in the classroom, remind and guide the students of the availability of these supports on the Badger assessment. Guiding your students to higher achievement on the Badger exam can be woven through the practical reading and studying techniques you already use. If they know how to take notes on reading passages, then utilizing the global notebook tool effectively this spring will have a much smaller learning curve.
This is a summary of Universal Tools on the SBAC Badger assessment in the hopes that after reading this, the documentation from SBAC and DPI will be less confusing than it was for me the first few times I read through it. For more details about universal assessment supports, please see: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/smarterbalanced_guidelines.pdf.
Look for further posts about Designated Supports and Accommodations available to a more limited population of students.