To the Editor:
The philosophy of “universal design for learning,” which advocates creating lessons and materials flexible enough to accommodate different learning styles, is a welcome remedy for one-size-fits-all instruction (“‘Universal Design’ Concept Pushed for Education,” Oct. 31, 2007). Universal design should apply to assessment as well as instruction, but high-stakes testing undermines “multiple, flexible methods of expression.” Maryland’s graduation test, for example, will rely solely on multiple-choice questions beginning May 2009. Even a combination of multiple-choice and short written responses on a high-stakes test is not flexible and does not meaningfully qualify as “multiple methods.”
The expert panel on assessment of the Forum on Educational Accountability called for universal design as one of its recommendations for overhauling the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It also proposed using multiple forms of assessment to enhance both flexibility and intellectual depth.
Local assessments that include classroom-based evidence are the best way to implement universal design and effectively employ multiple measures. Such assessments must be guided and monitored to ensure high quality and equity. Nebraska does this for its statewide system of local assessments, and Wyoming for its graduation assessments.
Congress should recognize that universal design, multiple assessments, and local flexibility support one another, and implement the forum’s assessment and accountability recommendations.
National Center for Fair & Open Testing
A version of this article appeared in the November 28, 2007 edition of Education Week as ‘Universal Design’ Concept And Multiple Measures