Guiding Principles for Assessment Accommodations
Types of Assessment |
- Do not assume that every student with disabilities needs assessment
accommodations. Accommodations used in assessments should parallel
accommodations used in instruction.
- Obtain approval by the IEP team. The IEP team must determine the
- Base accommodations on student need. Accommodations should respond to
the needs of the individual student and not be based on the category of the
student's disability. Do not base decisions about whether to provide
accommodations and what the accommodations should be on educational
program placement (e.g., percentage of time the student spends in the
general education classroom). While students with the same disability may
tend to need the same or similar kinds of accommodations, this is not a
sound basis for making decisions.
- Be respectful of the student's cultural and ethnic background. When
suggesting an accommodation, make sure the student and his or her family
are comfortable with it. When working with a student who has limited
English proficiency, consideration needs to be given to whether the
assessment should be explained to the student in his or her native language
or other mode of communication unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.
- Integrate assessment accommodations into classroom instruction. Never
introduce an unfamiliar accommodation to a student during an assessment.
Preferably, the student should use the accommodation as part of regular
instruction. At the very least, the student should have ample time to learn
and practice using the accommodation prior to the assessment.
- Know whether your state and/or district has an approved list of
accommodations. Although the ultimate authority for making decisions
about what accommodations are appropriate rests with the student's IEP
team, many states and districts have prepared a list of officially-approved
accommodations. These lists vary widely from district to district or state to
state. Generally, there are different documentation procedures depending on
whether the accommodation is or is not found on the state-approved/
district-approved list. Practitioners and families should consider the state
laws and district policies.
- Plan early for accommodations. Begin consideration of assessment
accommodations long before the student will use them, so that he or she has
sufficient opportunity to learn and feel comfortable.
Include students in decision making. Whenever possible, include the student
in determining an appropriate accommodation. Find out whether the
student perceives a need for the accommodation and whether he or she is
willing to use it. If a student does not want to use an accommodation (e.g., it
is embarrassing or it is too cumbersome to use), the student probably will
not use it.
- Understand the purpose of the assessment. Select only those
accommodations that do not interfere with the intent of the test. For
example, if the test measures calculations, a calculator would provide the
student with an unfair advantage. However, if the math test measures
problem-solving ability, a calculator may be appropriate. Similarly, reading a
test to a student would not present an unfair advantage unless the test
measures reading ability.
- Request only those accommodations that are truly needed. Too many
accommodations may overload the student and prove detrimental. When
suggesting more than one accommodation, make sure the accommodations
are compatible (e.g., do not interfere with each other or cause an undue
burden on the student).
- Determine if the selected accommodation requires another accommodation.
Some accommodations - such as having a test read aloud - may prove
distracting for other students, and therefore also may require a setting
- Provide practice opportunities for the student. Many standardized test formats are very different from teacher-made tests. This may pose problems
for students. Most tests have sample tests or practice versions. While it is
inappropriate to review the actual test with the student, practice tests are
designed for this purpose. Teach students test-taking tips, such as knowing
how much time is allotted and pacing oneself so as not to spend too much
time on one item. Orient students to the test format or types of questions.
For example, on multiple-choice tests, encourage students to read each
choice carefully, eliminate the wrong choices, and then select their answer.
- Remember that accommodations in test taking won't necessarily eliminate frustration for the student. Accommodations allow a student to demonstrate what he or she knows and can do. They are provided to meet a student's disability-related needs, not to give anyone an unfair advantage. Thus, accommodations will not in themselves guarantee a good score for a student or reduce test anxiety or other emotional reactions to the testing situation. Accommodations are intended to level the playing field.
Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.
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