New Milford, New Jersey (January 24, 2014): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), along with its affiliate organizations the NFB of New Jersey and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), and the parents of a blind high school student in New Milford (named in the suit as S.H.) have filed suit (case number: 14-392) in federal court against PARCC, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that was established in 2013 by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium currently made up of eighteen states, including New Jersey and the District of Columbia. This consortium received a $186 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Assessment Program competition, with which it has promised to develop “next-generation” academic assessments for use in measuring the academic progress and achievement of K-12 students. The suit has been filed because assessment tests created by PARCC, Inc. that will be field tested at S.H.’s high school and other locations this spring are not accessible to students who are blind. The field test assessments will not be offered in Braille, nor will they be available for use with text-to-speech screen reading technology that is commonly used by blind students. S.H. is a Braille reader. Another assessment consortium, known as Smarter Balanced, has announced that it will make its tests accessible in all phases of development, including field testing. The suit alleges that the failure to make the assessments accessible during field testing violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “While PARCC has promised that its assessment tests will ultimately be accessible, the lack of accessibility during field testing will put blind students at a significant disadvantage, because accessibility issues that may arise will not be identified until PARCC’s assessments are being deployed throughout the states in the consortium. Furthermore, the failure to make these assessments accessible during all phases of deployment violates federal law, especially since PARCC has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to develop the tests. Blind Americans, and the parents of blind children, cannot and will not tolerate blind students being forced to wait for likely inferior accessibility to the tests that will measure their academic performance, simply because the students happen to live in states that are part of a consortium that does not take its stated commitment to accessibility seriously.”
The NFB, NFB of New Jersey, NOPBC, and the parents of S.H. are represented in this matter by Jayne Wesler of the New Jersey firm Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler; Scott LaBarre of the Denver firm LaBarre Law Offices; and Dan Goldstein, Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, and Trevor Coe of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy