Ms. Flores and Mr. Ericson are reviewing the large-scale assessment data across all grade levels and want to improve the scores of students with disabilities. What problems do you think they might discover? (Opinion Question: No Resources)
How can Ms. Flores and Mr. Ericson use the school summary data to guide their efforts to help improve the scores of students with disabilities?
What questions should Ms. Flores and Mr. Ericson ask the general and special education teachers?
Page 11: Accommodations
An accommodation is a service or support that helps a student to fully access the subject matter and instruction, and to accurately demonstrate what he or she knows related to the child’s disability across all of the general education curriculum. For example, in the case of a student with a reading disability, teachers must accommodate the student’s reading in all content areas (e.g., math, science) that require reading implemented during instruction so that it is not unfamiliar to the student on test day. An accommodation is not:
A change to the content of instruction or performance expectations for students
An interference or major change to the standards specified for students
An alteration to the big idea or major learning outcomes expected of the instruction
There are many instances in which students would benefit from accommodations. These include:
Students with motor, sensory, or information-processing deficits benefit from alternative acquisition tools such as sign language interpreters, Braille materials, and tape-recorded books
Students with learning problems can be helped by content enhancements such as advance organizers, diagrams, study guides, mnemonic devices, or peer-mediated instruction
Students who have trouble expressing themselves due to sensory or motor deficits or language differences may benefit from having a scribe or from receiving additional time to complete their work
It is beneficial for teachers to use a checklist (e.g., Assessment Accommodations Checklist (PDF)) to help develop the specific accommodations needed by students who require this type of intervention. Accommodations may include assistance with test directions, scheduling, testing format, and other suggestions shown in the tables below.
Examples of Instructional Accommodations
Increased time to complete
assignments or tests
Additional practice of specific skills or concepts
Calculators and spell
Increased opportunities for
applying skills or concepts
A quieter setting
Direct instruction in using
specific knowledge in different contexts
In addition to accommodations for instruction, there are many types of test accommodations (National Center on Educational Outcomes, n.d.). Ideally, students would first become familiar with accommodations during instruction.
Examples of Assessment Accommodations
Change the test location. For example, allow the student to take the test in a small group or individually.
Allow extended time or take frequent test breaks.
Allow testing over several days or administer only during a specific time.
Change the format by using assistive devices, such as by allowing a reader or computer assistance.
Change how the student responds, such as by allowing a scribe, recorder, or computer.
Listen now as Margaret McLaughlin discusses test accommodations and provides several examples of students who might use testing accommodations.
Margaret J. McLaughlin, PhD Professor, Department of Special Education University of Maryland, College Park
There are several, kind of, key things that principals and in fact teachers and parents probably need to know about the assessment of students with disabilities. One of the big areas that is discussed a lot are test accommodations. And, of course, students with disabilities are entitled to have an accommodation on an assessment, any assessment, actually. And this accommodation has caused a lot of misunderstanding, and there’s a lot of, I think, confusion about what accommodations are permitted, what isn’t an accommodation, does every child with a disability get one, etc. An accommodation, an assessment accommodation, can be a number of things. I mean, it can be as simple as extending the amount of time a student has to complete a portion of the assessment, but there can also be more complex accommodations. Like, there can be some sort of assistive technology or having a scribe or some sort of other individual who might help that student. However, just as I use the word “help,” it’s very important to understand that an accommodation is not designed to help the student perform better, it’s designed to offset the impact of the student’s disability. In other words, the legal interpretation of an accommodation is that it should level the playing field. Now, we know some about the impacts of accommodations on test scores, but nothing conclusive. Accommodations can be differentially effective for different students, depending on the disability, depending on the demands of the particular assessment. So an accommodation should be both designed and selected, and implemented during the assessment very carefully, with a lot of thought about exactly what that student needs, what that student’s instructional needs are, and of course the accommodation should be applied during instruction as well. And it needs to be monitored.
Margaret J. McLaughlin, PhD – Examples of Test Accommodations
Let’s take a simple example. A child who has a visual impairment obviously is going to need some sort of an accommodation on a paper pencil test to be able to read the material. However, if that child is a hearing-impaired child, it’s not going to be particularly helpful, and it might actually impair that child’s performance to give him or her a large print version of the test, or certainly a Braille version, because obviously this is something the child does not use during instruction, and it would not be helpful. So we need to think about accommodations, even though those are the most obvious examples, we need to think about all accommodations with that in mind. We also need to consider accommodations by sub-tests or the test demands, the assessment demands. Obviously, some tests, like a reading comprehension or a reading test, if you use a reader, someone who is going to read the test to the student, you’re going to nullify that score. That’s going to become a score that’s considered a non-standard score, because the accommodation really destroyed the validity of the information that you’re getting from that. You’re not learning anything about how well the child could read. You’re learning how well the child can listen to a reader and respond to certain questions. So those kinds of decisions are not just something that can be made quickly or in isolation. It does require that the IEP team understand a lot about the assessment itself and what kinds of decisions and what kinds of inferences you want to make from these scores that come from that assessment, and, of course, they must know the student.