Sonoma County Office of Education

Technology for Learners

Linking SBAC Accessibility Tools to Daily Learning

Author: Rick Phelan
Published: 12.22.17


Accessibility tools are for everyday learning and testing. For the past three years schools have acknowledged the value of SBAC accessibility tools to help students understand and express themselves on test questions. In many situations learning about the tools has been limited to the last part of the spring semester and work related to SBAC test preparation. Actions to help students learn about and apply accessibility tools throughout the school year can yield results for both daily learning and summative assessments.  This blog post provides details on a process underway in a number of Sonoma County schools making SBAC accessibility tools a part of everyday learning and testing.

This four step process helps students connect regular classroom instruction with SBAC accessibility tools. Those involved in this process include special education case managers, education specialists, English learner specialists, general education teachers, parents, and students.  

Step 1: Technology Connections

What technology is available to students in their current school setting?

  • Chromebook
  • iPad
  • Desktop computer
  • Laptop computer


What technology tasks are students currently proficient with?

  • Reading English content from Internet web pages
  • Reading Spanish content from Internet web pages
  • Writing with a word processor


Given 2017-18 SBAC accessibility supports, what supports are worth further consideration through trial teaching?



Step 2: SBAC Accessibility Tool History

What accessibility options is the student using now for daily classroom work (tech & non-tech)?

What SBAC accessibility options were prescribed for the student in past years?

Sources of Info:

  • Case Manager
  • LH Specialist/Other
  • EL Specialist
  • General Ed Teacher
  • Special Education Information System
  • Test Operations Management System


Sample Questions:

  • What are the student’s academic strengths?  
  • What are the student’s challenges?
  • What supports does the student currently use for reading and writing in their classroom?
  • If the student had prescriptions for SBAC supports last year, how was the student made aware of the option(s) and its application?


Step 3: Trial Teaching of Accessibility Resources

Students take time to develop awareness and understanding of accessibility tools. In the same way a carpenter learns to use specific tools for tasks, students must be provided time to learn about SBAC accessibility tools for comprehension and expression. The process involves demonstration of tools along with trial applications.  It commonly takes educators four to six weeks to evaluate the effectiveness of accessibility tools through a period of trial teaching. The period involves a cycle of explanations, activities and observations where the teacher advances strategies for applying the accessibility resource in varied ways. A helpful resource for understanding SBAC accessibility tools and everyday classroom connections can be found in the Resources and Practices Crosswalk (Appendix H of the CAASPP Manual for Administration).

Sample Trial Teaching Walk Through

Introduction of Accessibility Resource- a teacher may choose to provide instruction through whole class, small group or 1-1 demonstration of a specific tool. Short activities of 5-15 minutes exhibiting use of tool by teacher or students are best. Note:These activities need to be more than a video demonstration of the tool and involve applications beyond SBAC questions displaying application in daily classroom use.

Example with the Highlighter Tool

Sample teacher narrative: Highlighters can be useful to mark main ideas. They help readers remember main ideas and key vocabulary. Today, we’re going to practice using highlighters with a copied page and a highlighter pen. Here’s a passage about zebras and where they live:  Let’s work together highlighting key ideas using a highlighting pen.

Teacher guides student with initial work to support understanding and use of highlighting pen.

Question for continued trial teaching- Does the student understand how to use the tool?  Is additional time warranted for continued learning with this accessibility support?

  • If yes, should this involve additional direct instruction, guided work or independent practice? Select additional practice reading materials from instructional resources being used by the student.  Continue work to promote understanding of the highlighter.
  • If no, what should be tried as an alternative? Text to speech (computer)? Human reader? Other?


Step 4: Appropriation of Accessibility Tools

Once tools are selected and found to be helpful for student accessibility, tool use needs to be generalized for different learning tasks beyond the SBAC summative test. This is accomplished through a process of appropriation where educators provide different tasks for students involving the selected accessibility tool(s). 

Examples of Appropriation with the Highlighting Tool

  • Teacher offers copied page from a social text and works with student using highlighter pens marking main ideas and key vocabulary
  • Student is provided with SBAC Interim Assessment Block for ‘Information Passages’ and practices use of electronic highlighter marking key points to support comprehension
  • Student uses the highlighter tool from Google Chrome Extension “Read&Write” to highlight different points of view from a web page expressing contrasting information.
  • Student uses the highlighter tool from the Evernote application while reading a biographical account noting significant accomplishments of the subject


Related Resources

Promoting Access & Expression with Technology

Success for All Students- Assistive Technology

Available Resources for IEP Teams


Blog: Technology for Learners