Guiding Principles for Assessment Accommodations

Guiding principles for assessment accommodation.

Guiding Principles for Assessment Accommodations

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When making assessment accommodations, keep the following in mind.

  1. Do not assume that every student with disabilities needs assessmentaccommodations. Accommodations used in assessments should parallelaccommodations used in instruction.
  2. Obtain approval by the IEP team. The IEP team must determine theaccommodations.
  3. Base accommodations on student need. Accommodations should respond tothe needs of the individual student and not be based on the category of thestudent's disability. Do not base decisions about whether to provideaccommodations and what the accommodations should be on educationalprogram placement (e.g., percentage of time the student spends in thegeneral education classroom). While students with the same disability maytend to need the same or similar kinds of accommodations, this is not asound basis for making decisions.
  4. Be respectful of the student's cultural and ethnic background. Whensuggesting an accommodation, make sure the student and his or her familyare comfortable with it. When working with a student who has limitedEnglish proficiency, consideration needs to be given to whether theassessment should be explained to the student in his or her native languageor other mode of communication unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.
  5. Integrate assessment accommodations into classroom instruction. Neverintroduce an unfamiliar accommodation to a student during an assessment.Preferably, the student should use the accommodation as part of regularinstruction. At the very least, the student should have ample time to learnand practice using the accommodation prior to the assessment.
  6. Know whether your state and/or district has an approved list ofaccommodations. Although the ultimate authority for making decisionsabout what accommodations are appropriate rests with the student's IEPteam, many states and districts have prepared a list of officially-approvedaccommodations. These lists vary widely from district to district or state tostate. Generally, there are different documentation procedures depending onwhether the accommodation is or is not found on the state-approved/district-approved list. Practitioners and families should consider the statelaws and district policies.
  7. Plan early for accommodations. Begin consideration of assessmentaccommodations long before the student will use them, so that he or she hassufficient opportunity to learn and feel comfortable.Include students in decision making. Whenever possible, include the studentin determining an appropriate accommodation. Find out whether thestudent perceives a need for the accommodation and whether he or she iswilling to use it. If a student does not want to use an accommodation (e.g., itis embarrassing or it is too cumbersome to use), the student probably willnot use it.
  8. Understand the purpose of the assessment. Select only thoseaccommodations that do not interfere with the intent of the test. Forexample, if the test measures calculations, a calculator would provide thestudent with an unfair advantage. However, if the math test measuresproblem-solving ability, a calculator may be appropriate. Similarly, reading atest to a student would not present an unfair advantage unless the testmeasures reading ability.
  9. Request only those accommodations that are truly needed. Too manyaccommodations may overload the student and prove detrimental. Whensuggesting more than one accommodation, make sure the accommodationsare compatible (e.g., do not interfere with each other or cause an undueburden on the student).
  10. Determine if the selected accommodation requires another accommodation.Some accommodations - such as having a test read aloud - may provedistracting for other students, and therefore also may require a settingaccommodation.
  11. Provide practice opportunities for the student. Many standardized test formats are very different from teacher-made tests. This may pose problemsfor students. Most tests have sample tests or practice versions. While it isinappropriate to review the actual test with the student, practice tests aredesigned for this purpose. Teach students test-taking tips, such as knowinghow much time is allotted and pacing oneself so as not to spend too muchtime on one item. Orient students to the test format or types of questions.For example, on multiple-choice tests, encourage students to read eachchoice carefully, eliminate the wrong choices, and then select their answer.
  12. Remember that accommodations in test taking won't necessarily eliminatefrustration for the student. Accommodations allow a student to demonstratewhat he or she knows and can do. They are provided to meet a student'sdisability-related needs, not to give anyone an unfair advantage. Thus,accommodations will not in themselves guarantee a good score for a studentor reduce test anxiety or other emotional reactions to the testing situation.Accommodations are intended to level the playing field.


Excerpted from Assessment Accommodations Toolkit.

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