Guiding Principles for Assessment Accommodations

Related References
Types of Assessment


Case Studies

When making assessment accommodations, keep the following in mind.
  1. Do not assume that every student with disabilities needs assessment accommodations. Accommodations used in assessments should parallel accommodations used in instruction.
  2. Obtain approval by the IEP team. The IEP team must determine the accommodations.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).
  10. 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 accommodation.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

Excerpted from Assessment Accommodations Toolkit.

Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.

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