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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of accommodations that can be used during instruction?

Teachers can accommodate diverse learner needs in the classroom by making adjustments in the materials or methods used. These adjustments include:

  • Fewer tasks per assignment
  • Graph paper for calculations
  • Highlight key points
  • Note-taking aids
  • Change in seat location
  • Use of a word processor
  • Tutoring or study buddies
    Materials with lower reading levels
  • Examples of correctly completed work
  • Advance notice of assignments
  • Tape-recorded versions of printed materials
  • Present information in multiple ways

Can instructional accommodations be used in classroom tests?

Although many instructional accommodations can be transferred into classroom tests, some should NOT be transferred into the testing situation. For example, during reading instruction, an appropriate accommodation might be to read along with the student, or perhaps have the student follow along as someone reads to him or her. When the student is taking a reading test that is designed to assess decoding skills, then the read-along accommodation is not appropriate. Making decisions about what accommodations confuse the construct that is being tested requires a good understanding of what knowledge and skills the test is intending to measure.

What kind of accommodations are allowed for students with disabilities on state tests?

Each state has written guidelines to indicate which accommodations are "allowed" and the states vary considerably on the specific accommodations that they allow. Some commonly used state level assessment accommodations include:

  • Read aloud
  • Large print or Braille editions
  • Extended or unlimited time
  • Tests administered across multiple days
  • Subtests in different order
  • Use of reference aids
  • Tests administered in a separate room
  • Use of a word processor

What is the difference between an accommodation and a modification?

Currently there is no national agreement on the terms used to refer to accommodations, so the answer to this can differ by state. However, many states do define accommodation and modification in different ways. An accommodation, in some states, generally refers to a change in the way a test is administered, or a change in the testing environment, with the added characteristic that the construct being measured does not change. A modification, in some states, refers to a change to the test that is thought to change the construct measured. It is important to remember that most states do not have empirical evidence about construct validity and accommodations and that these distinctions are made by professional judgment, not empirical evidence.

How fair is it to provide assessment accommodations to some students but not others?

When answering this question, it is important to remember that the intent of providing accommodations is to "level the playing field" for students, ensuring that the test is measuring the student1s skills, not just the effects of disability. Some states have decided to extend availability of most accommodations to students, not just those with disabilities (e.g., Colorado, Kansas and Rhode Island).

What research is available on assessment accommodations?

There is very little research available on assessment accommodations. In the early 1980s, testing companies conducted some initial research on accommodations. However, their research was limited to specific students (e.g., individuals with visual impairments), specific accommodations (e.g., large print, Braille), and tests (e.g., college entrance exams) that are unlike most large-scale assessments used by states and districts today. Some states and policy organizations have conducted research on accommodations in large-scale assessments and more and more university researchers are also studying accommodations. Until more research is available, states and districts are basing decisions on the legal requirements to provide accommodations and what they see as best practice.

What should parents know about accommodations?

Parents are important advocates for their children. They can help make sure that accommodations their child needs are documented on their child’s IEP and carried out in instructional and assessment situations. To do that, parents need to know the following:

  • Each state has guidelines for the use of accommodations on assessments.
  • Decisions about accommodations should be based on the needs of the individual student.
  • Students have a right to use accommodations to help them learn and to demonstrate what they have learned.
  • The accommodations used during instruction should be closely aligned with the accommodations used during district and state tests.
  • Using accommodations should not impede students from meeting the learning objectives. For example, using books on tape does not mean that the student will no longer be learning to read. It means that the student will be able to keep up with content classes like science and social studies, while still working on acquiring reading skills.
  • Accommodations are not just for school. Figuring out what works best for students at home (e.g., captioning on TV), in the community (e.g., short, simple directions) and on the job (e.g., list of steps to follow to complete a task) are just as important, especially to students at the secondary level as they prepare to transition to postsecondary settings.

What should students know about accommodations?

It is very important for students with disabilities to understand their accommodation needs and to have some influence in what accommodations they receive during instruction and testing. Students know what accommodations they are comfortable using, but they should also understand the ways in which certain accommodations help them, and the consequences of deciding not to use an accommodation.

As members of IEP teams, students can have an active and informed role in making decisions about the use of accommodations. The importance of their input and their decisions increases over time, particularly at the secondary level, as they prepare to move from school to the world of work or postsecondary education. Once they have made this transition, they will be on their own to request any accommodations they may need.


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This page was last updated on November 29, 2017.