Assessment Classroom


Children, with little or no ability to talk,  that need special equipment to enable them to communicate without using their hands.  They are typically assumed to have low cognition, but many are capable of more than imagined.  Many also have complex medical issues, such as seizure disorder, respiratory issues, or feeding tubes.  There is no one diagnosis label for these children.


The Durham Model Assessment Classroom (DMAC) will be a kindergarten through 5nd grade classroom at Easley Elementary in Durham, NC.  A survey has determined that 28 K-2ND grade children in Durham County Public Schools are in need of this type of intervention.  The project will serve 8 students at a time in the assessment phase and will continue with the student through transitions.  There will be an outreach component that serves students at other schools in the district as well.


  • The goal of the project is to create an educational setting that, while following the standard course of study, will allow a more thorough assessment of the each student’s needs and capabilities.  The classroom will also provide a setting for identifying the most appropriate assistive technology and other supports necessary for the student to be able to pursue his or her full academic potential in a base public school.  Supports would include a functional communication system and ways to access the curriculum and their world through assistive technology, using both high and low tech, and literacy skills development.
  • Another goal of the Durham Model Assessment Classroom is to develop additional skills of the school personnel, who typically have not worked with a student with this level of impairment.  By collaborating with specialists, both within the school district and brought in from outside, to assess and make the necessary adaptations to curriculum for students with significant physical and communication disabilities more effectively, and to prepare these students and the teaching staff for successful inclusion into the least restrictive classroom.
  • Finally, the project will allow New Voices to document outcomes for students, refine the classroom as a model, and demonstrate that this type of intensive assessment and support is effective and warranted.  This model, if successful, would become the basis for implementation on a larger scale, including replication across the state and perhaps, nationwide.


  • Concentrate and add resources for multi-disciplinary assessment of student’s abilities and needs
  • Engage external resources, such as universities and clinicians, in assessment process
  • Intensive transition planning, support, and follow up with classroom teachers and students
  • Support and follow up with families regarding technology usage
  • Increase professional development for school personnel on latest technologies and teaching strategies
  • Establishing an equipment lab adjoining the classroom to allow for quick and easy access for equipment trial
  • Establish research protocol to be implemented to document student outcomes and develop most effective model to address the needs of these students


  • New Voices Foundation has provided funds for this project through private donors and grants from foundations with similar philanthropic interests.
  • Durham Public Schools has provided classroom space and space for the equipment lab, teacher and teacher assistants, support from Easley administration, Assistive Technology, and Exceptional Children.