Penno, D. A., Frank, A. R., & Wacker, D. P. (2000). Instructional accommodations for adolescent students with severe emotional and behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 25(4), 325-343.
The impact of instructional accommodations on the academic performance and classroom behavior of three male adolescents (aged 13, 14 & 14 yrs) diagnosed with severe behavioral disorders was studied experimentally. The functional assessment involved three separate phases: (a) descriptive analyses of students’ behavioral problems at school, followed by qualitative reports from students and teachers; (b) hypotheses regarding the impact of specific instructional accommodations on students’ academic performance and classroom behavior, developed and tested experimentally for each student; and (c) use of information gained from studying the impact of the accommodations on each student’s performance across academic subjects, using a multiple baseline design. The researchers reported that students’ academic performance improved with the use of at least one instructional accommodation, and that there were also decreases in behavioral problems during classes in which the accommodations were implemented.
IDEA 97 stipulates that students with disabilities themselves must participate in the accommodations and transition planning process. According to previous studies, students who successfully self-advocate for accommodations must develop skills in recognizing their own strengths and weaknesses, assertiveness, decision-making, and self-regulated learning. In this study, 96 high school students with disabilities in Minnesota were interviewed about their participation in a large-scale state assessment required for graduation, as well as accommodations they used for courses and state tests. A majority (75%) of students used accommodations such as extended time, testing in a different location/room, repeated directions, and prior review of test directions. Students who reported using accommodations passed the Reading and Writing Basic Skills Tests at a higher rate than those who took the standard assessment, but no differences were found for the Math test.
A survey conducted in 1999 by the National Center for Educational Outcomes examined the extent to which accommodations were used by states, public reporting policies, and data collection procedures. Preliminary findings for the 12 states that collected information indicated widespread variation in how accommodations are used and defined. As expected, the most frequently allowed accommodations across states (e.g., large print, Braille, and reading directions) were for visual disabilities in contrast to demographic data indicating that other disabilities (e.g., speech and language impairments, learning disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities) are more common. Further, it is unclear why, in most states, students in higher grade levels tended to use accommodations less.
Non-approved accommodations (also known as modifications or nonstandard administrations) have the potential to impact the construct validity of tests and comparisons with tests using approved accommodations. However, research in this area is limited at present. Discrepancies among states in how accommodations are approved and used for different subject areas may reflect the absence of appropriate policy guidelines. In summary, it is recommended that the use of non-approved accommodations be allowed, that their use be recorded and tracked statewide, and that additional data (such as portfolios, performance assessments, grades, work samples, and reviews by independent panels) be used to determine scores.