Read-aloud Software Implemented for Grade 10 MCAS

MALDEN, MA - Students with reading and learning disabilities will have the option of using a new "read-aloud" software to aid them in taking this year's Grade 10 MCAS exam, education officials announced. Kurzweil 3000, from Kurzweil Educational Systems, reads aloud from on-screen text, and is used in classrooms now by students with specific reading and learning disabilities outlined in their Individual Education Plans. This is the first year students will be able to use Kurzweil 3000 to take the Grade 10 MCAS exam or retest if they are already using it in their daily classroom work. In the future, students will be able to take the test at all grade levels using the software. "We want to make sure that every student taking the MCAS has the opportunity to fully demonstrate what they know and understand on the tests," said Daniel Wiener, Assessment Coordinator for Special Populations in the Student Assessment Services unit at the Massachusetts Department of Education. "This will benefit our students with reading and learning disabilities, and our teachers who will no longer have to read the tests aloud to those students. Most importantly, this helps us in our goal of making our testing program accessible to all students." Kurzweil 3000 addresses language and literacy difficulties and uses a multi-sensory approach, presenting students with printed or electronic text on the computer screen with added visual and audible accessibility. The product also features study skill and test taking tools designed to adapt to each individual's learning style and minimize frustration for both the learner and educator. As part of a pilot study in 2002, The South Shore Educational Collaborative implemented the use of Kurzweil 3000 software for its Grade 8 and 10 students in their classrooms in Braintree and Randolph. Jennifer Edge, Assistive Technology Consultant for the Collaborative, lauded the effect it has had on their students. "Already students at the school are reading books and materials and taking tests independently, and are showing improvement in spelling," she said. "The impact this software can have on students who might otherwise be ready to drop out of school is eye-opening. It allows them to have access to parts of the curriculum they otherwise would not have the chance to explore."
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