In 2012, the Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (PAR) was developed as a printed manual. But the process was developed years prior to this, through the efforts of two assistive technology (AT) specialists with more than 35 combined years of experience. We developed PAR for one reason: Despite our many years of working with students with reading disabilities, we could not reliably estimate which students would truly benefit from reading accommodations.
uPAR is a game changer. It allows us to shift to a more capacity-building model of AT consideration. It helps to build the capacity of classroom educators by giving them an easy-to-use process to screen the potential of more students in one sitting and to evaluate the effectiveness of TTS (text-to-speech) as well as PHA (pre-recorded human audio). It lessens the need to economize and prioritize those students for whom PAR was administered one-on-one. As AT specialists, we value AT equity. uPAR allows educators to screen the full range of students who are delayed in reading to determine the benefit of reading tools. It targets students with dyslexia, but does not limit its use for the broad range of students reading below grade level.
The most important difference between the two is one of scale. With PAR you can examine reading accommodations for one student at a time. PAR will be useful then to make instructional decisions about a particular student. With uPAR, the information gathered may be less nuanced, since PAR gives you an opportunity to observe a single student. However, this is balanced by uPAR’s ability to make instructional decisions for a classroom or a large group of students. Moreover, group data has more of an impact on implementation decisions for reading tools across a school or district. There is power in group data to help principals and stakeholders see the broad-range benefit of reading tools.
While uPAR will suggest some student-specific action items, its most powerful function is increasing access to complex text for all students. Consider how your school can use the uPAR discussion as a starting point for removing the barriers that decoding and fluency impose on the volume and quality of reading accessible to struggling readers. When teachers provide students with digital text and TTS, they have the freedom to move students from their leveled reading groups and teach to their interests. This allows them to engage students on grade-level standards. In one elementary school that replaced leveled reading groups with literature circles in which all students read the same motivating grade-level text (i.e., some students accessing the grade-level text using TTS), independent reading scores that had remained flat for years increased by ten percentage points (Wilson & Ellis, 2019).
Using a UDL framework instead of an individualized approach has several benefits. Providing access to digital text for all students instead of an accommodation-only approach for some will save time in the classrooms, as you won’t need to make specific provisions student by student. It reduces stigma for students who require accommodations, while at the same time benefiting some students who were not identified as needing them, but who might find them useful in certain situations.
A UDL approach will necessitate:
- Revising classroom routines to allow students to choose when and whether they read digitally or on paper.
- Teacher modeling of common reading strategies such as highlighting vocabulary, extracting evidence from text, and making notations using the same digital tools that students have available.
- Making sure students have access to needed trade books in audio and eBook formats.
If you would like to try the free paper version of PAR for one-on-one implementation now, Download the PAR PDF Here.
If you’d like more in depth research from the creators of PAR and uPAR read the expanded article.