Transcript: Ryan Kettler, PhD

Selecting Appropriate Testing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Ryan Kettler discusses the importance of understanding the relationship between accommodations and educational assessment practices for students with disabilities (time: 4:33).

Narrator: This podcast is brought to you by the IRIS Center, a national center funded by the Office of Special Education Programs.

Ryan Kettler on selecting appropriate testing accommodations for students with disabilities. Ryan Kettler discusses the importance of understanding the relationship between accommodations and educational assessment practices for students with disabilities.

Narrator: What considerations should the IEP team make when identifying testing accommodations?

Ryan Kettler: You always want to select an accommodation that is matched to the access skill for the test, and you absolutely never want to select an accommodation that’s going to affect the target skill. Number one, you’ve identified the functional impairment. Number two, you’ve found the accommodation or the accommodations that match the functional impairment, and I have to go back and say, “Okay, if I apply any of these to this algebra test, are they going to affect my ability to measure algebra? Are they going to contaminate the target skill, if you will?” You can’t allow a calculator on a test of calculations. You can’t allow read-aloud on a test of reading comprehension. You can allow read-aloud as an accommodation on a test of comprehension, but not reading comprehension. So the example that I’m getting into here is, if you take a test that’s designed to measure reading comprehension and you allow the student to have somebody read the test aloud to them, you change that from a test of reading comprehension to just being a test of listening comprehension. Now, if that test was designed to measure listening comprehension, that’s fine. You didn’t affect the target skill being measured. But if that was specifically supposed to be a test of reading comprehension, you’ve undermined the construct by allowing it to be read aloud. You’ve changed the construct and said, no, you can’t use that accommodation.

Narrator: How can one determine whether a testing accommodation is appropriate?

Ryan Kettler: And there are some individual tools that can be used to evaluate whether a specific accommodations on a specific test is appropriate for a student. The first is the dynamic assessment of testing accommodations, and that was written by Lynn and Doug Fuchs, and that’s for students of the elementary and middle school grade level. They take a form of the test without the accommodation and a form with the accommodation. You look at how much their scores increase from being given the accommodation then you compare that increase or boost to a normative population of students in general education that’s provided with the tool that shows how much the student without a disability on average improves. The philosophy behind the test is that, if your student’s performance improves a lot more with the accommodation than the student without a disability improves the accommodation, your student is set to be displaying what we refer to in test accommodations research as differential boost. It’s seen as one piece of evidence that indicates that this student may have a functional impairment that’s affecting them from being able to show what they know they can do on this test. They’re improving more than the general population, more than people typically improve with this accommodation. This might be an especially appropriate accommodation for them. What we want to see is a differential boost, bigger boost for students with disabilities than for students without, showing that we’re getting closer to leveling the playing field and making their experience on the test more comparable to the experience with students without disabilities. But, at the end of the day, it’s always going to come back to the clinical judgment of the IEP team, of the assessment expert on the IEP team, and of the teachers to make a decision for this individual with this accommodation on this test: Is it going be appropriate?

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