NCEO Synthesis Report 56
Published by the National Center on Educational Outcomes
Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:
Clapper, A.T., Morse, A.B., Lazarus, S.S., Thompson, S.J., & Thurlow, M.L. (2005). 2003 state policies on assessment participation and accommodations for students with disabilities (Synthesis Report 56). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes. Retrieved [today's date], from the World Wide Web: http://education.umn.edu/NCEO/OnlinePubs/Synthesis56.html
The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) has been tracking and analyzing state policies on assessment participation and accommodations since 1992. The purpose of the current analysis is to update information on these policies that was last reported by NCEO in 2002 (based on 2001 data). The current analysis of states’ 2003 participation and accommodation policies found that state policies on participation and accommodation continue to evolve, and that they have become more detailed and specific than in previous years. Key findings from this analysis include:
Please note that this analysis did not attempt to determine the degree to which state policies complied with federal requirements under IDEA or NCLB.
Given that both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 and Title I of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 require the participation of students with disabilities in state assessments, it is important to study how they will participate and what, if any, accommodations will be used. The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) has been tracking and analyzing state policies that address participation and accommodations for students with disabilities since 1992, with the most recent analysis examining 2001 policies (Thurlow, Lazarus, Thompson, & Robey, 2002). Each time that NCEO has examined state policies (Thurlow, Ysseldyke, & Silverstein, 1993; Thurlow, Scott, & Ysseldyke, 1995a & 1995b; Thurlow, Seyfarth, Scott, & Ysseldyke, 1997; Thurlow, House, Boys, Scott, & Ysseldyke, 2000; Thurlow, Lazarus, et al., 2002), there have been significant changes from the previous analysis.
Initially, these updates indicated that increasing numbers of states had policies on participation and accommodation. More recently there have been qualitative changes as well: (1) increased specificity of the language used in the policies, and (2) an increased number of written documents that include not only official policy documents, but also guidelines, procedures, and training materials. As states continue to promote the meaningful participation of students with disabilities in their assessments, it is anticipated that policies and related documents addressing participation and accommodations will continue to evolve.
Need to Update and Analyze
In the 2001 report, it was noted that changes in policies seemed to be occurring slowly. The NCEO reports have always been viewed as snapshots of a particular point in time, but the 2001 snapshot did not seem very different from the 1999 snapshot. With the advent of NCLB accountability requirements, it was possible that things would change. Thus, despite a prior sense that this analysis might produce a static picture, the policy context dictated the need to examine the states’ participation and accommodation policies. Whether we found them to be static or highly volatile (which, indeed, is what we found), each report still provides a snapshot in time.
The current update, based on 2003 data, sought answers to questions similar to those addressed in previous examinations of state policies. These questions included:
· How many states’ policies reflect the three basic participation options for students with disabilities (e.g., general assessment without accommodations, general assessment with accommodations, and alternate assessment)?
· What criteria can and cannot be used to guide the decision-making process for how students with disabilities will participate in statewide assessment systems?
· What student groups are eligible to receive accommodations during testing?
· What criteria can and cannot be used to guide the decision-making process regarding the use of accommodations during statewide assessments?
· What are the various types of accommodations cited in state policies? What accommodations are most often allowed, both with and without restrictions? What accommodations are most often prohibited?
The 2003 report also asked two new questions. The inclusion of these questions grew out of what we considered to be emerging issues from the field and possible sources of challenge for states. Questions new to the 2003 report were:
1. What guidance does the state provide for using accommodations that are not explicitly addressed in state policy?
2. Does the state have guidelines for the administration of accommodations involving another human to administer or record (e.g. persons reading the test aloud to the student, scribes, sign language interpreters, or persons paraphrasing the test directions)?
One area addressed in previous reports but not included in this report was alternate assessment. The decision to omit this topic was due to NCEO’s extensive coverage of this issue in other reports and publications (see for example, Quenemoen, Thompson, & Thurlow, 2003; Thompson & Thurlow, 2003).
Process Used to Review State Policies
In general, procedures used for this analysis of states’ written participation and accommodation policies were similar to the procedures that had been used in the past. As was the case in previous years, the information for this report was gathered through the examination and analysis of publicly available written documents. This is in contrast to other approaches that survey informed respondents and that may use a restricted list of accommodations.
Initially, participation and accommodation policies for all 50 states were obtained from states’ Web sites as of December 31, 2003. Then, all 50 states were given the opportunity to verify that we had identified the most up-to-date and complete policy documents. The initial compilation of data for each state was placed in a single document, referred to as a state profile. The profiles were mailed to states in April, 2004. States were then asked to verify the information in their profiles by indicating: (1) if the information was accurate, (2) if they needed additional information in order to decide whether the information contained in their profiles was accurate, or (3) if the profiles contained inaccurate information and that changes needed to be made to the profile. If a state requested changes to the profile, we required written documentation as to the source of those changes before accepting the changes. State officials were asked to return their edited profiles to us via mail, e-mail, or fax. The information from the verified state profiles was then placed in the tables contained in this report. A complete list of state documents used to compile information for this report is in Appendix A.
This analysis did not attempt to determine the degree to which state policies complied with federal requirements under IDEA or NCLB. Those determinations would need to be made by the appropriate federal authorities and should not be inferred from this report.
Organization of the Report
In this update we summarize and categorize the extensive information contained in states’ participation and accommodation policies. As in past reports, presenting information in figures and tables makes it more accessible, but can sometimes obscure the underlying complexities of the individual state policies. For example, it is not apparent in any of the tables that state policies on participation and accommodations range in length from a few pages to hundreds of pages. This complexity is exacerbated by the burgeoning number of state documents addressing participation and accommodations that are currently available. Some states have policies in place with few or no related supporting documents, while others have, in addition to policies, a full complement of related materials such as procedural manuals and training guides. Other states have a wide range of procedural manuals and training guides on their Web sites, but any actual policy documents regarding participation and accommodations are not available on the Web.
This report is divided into two sections. Section 1 addresses the information gathered on participation. Section 2 contains the review of issues related to accommodations.
The full tables are included in Appendix B of this report while the summary figures and tables are provided in the main sections of the report. A comparison was made, where possible, to similar information from previous reports. In cases where the information from state documents was not easily quantified, a narrative summary was provided.
Section 1—Participation Policies
This section of the report analyzes the participation guidelines of the states. In 2003, as in 2001, all states had policies that addressed the participation of students with disabilities in state assessments. Diversity among state policies remains, however, as to the exact nature of the content covered in the policies and the specificity of language used in states’ policy statements. Details on the participation policies of specific states are provided in Appendix B.
Additional Testing Options
Some state participation policies included language about additional testing options beyond the three traditional testing options (general assessment without accommodations, general assessment with accommodations, and alternate assessment). These additional testing options included modified assessments, out-of-level testing, and locally selected assessments. Modified assessments is the term that we use when a state permits the administration of a test with nonstandard accommodations (modifications). These accommodations are considered to change what is being tested to an extent that invalidates a student’s score. Out-of-level testing refers to the practice of allowing a student in one grade to take an assessment designed for another (usually lower) grade. Locally selected assessments are assessments that school district staff select for students who are unable to participate in the general assessment even with accommodations.
As shown in Figure 1, written policies in 20 states indicated the existence of additional testing options. The participation policies in the remaining states did not indicate that additional testing options, beyond the traditional three, were available. Details on the policies of specific states are provided in Tables B-1a and B-1b in Appendix B. Several states had more than one additional testing option. For example, one state permitted students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and students taking advance coursework to take the benchmark (general) assessment above or below their grade level. This state also permitted modified test administration with the use of nonstandard accommodations as well as four different extended assessments that were basically one-on-one performance assessments for students with IEPs. In a different state that permitted out-of level testing, students were permitted to take the test out-of-level; however, if that option was selected, the students were counted as “non-proficient” for accountability purposes. It should be noted that this study only analyzed state participation and accommodation policies. We may not have picked up all of the states that have out-of-level testing (or other additional testing options) in this analysis. More detailed information about the states that permit out-of-level testing is available in VanGetson, Minnema, and Thurlow (2004).
Changes Since 2001. The number of states with participation policies that specifically cite the availability or non-availability of additional testing options increased since 2001. In 2001, 12 states did not mention additional testing options (e.g., the policies neither permitted nor prohibited additional testing options), while in 2003, the policies of only 5 states made no mention of additional testing options. Comparing the information for 2003 in Figure 1 (and in Table 1a in Appendix B) to 2001 information (Thurlow et al., 2002) indicated a decrease in the number of states providing additional testing options (from 33 states in 2001 to 20 in 2003).
Figure 1. Summary of Additional Testing Options, 2003
Unique Participation Options
Selective Participation. Our review of state participation policies documented the practice of selective participation in some states. Selective participation is a term we use to represent circumstances in which students with disabilities are allowed to take certain parts of the assessment without being required to take other parts (specific content areas or subtests). The practice of permitting selective participation was in flux in states during the time of our data collection, analysis, and verification. Because of this, the best summary of our findings is that approximately one-third of the states had language in state policies that allowed this option while the rest did not have information to that effect in their state documents. For states that permitted this practice, conditions for its use were specified. Examples of some of these conditions were:
· A student’s IEP can require that he or she take only certain test items.
· Students may participate partially in the test, taking those subtests that are not affected by their disability or lack of language ability.
· Students with IEPs must participate in the assessment in at least one of the four content areas at grades 3, 5, and 8, or in the alternate assessment.
Combination Participation. Conversely, the term combination participation refers to situations where students are allowed to take different parts of different tests (e.g., one test in the alternate and others in the general assessment either with or without accommodations). As with selective participation, the practice of permitting combination participation was in flux in states in 2003, but a review of state participation policies revealed that approximately one-third of the states allowed this option. Examples of policy language from states that permitted this practice include:
· Students may take one test in the alternate and one test in the general.
· Off-level testing must be considered separately for each content area of the assessment. An on-grade-level assessment may be appropriate in one content area such as mathematics and an off-grade-level test may be recommended in another content area such as reading.
· If the student meets the criteria for participation in the alternate assessment, and he or she is working on content standards within the general education curriculum, the student may participate in relevant sections of the regular assessment and participate in appropriate areas in the alternate assessment.
Circumstances that Allowed for the Exclusion of Students
In addition to examining state policies on how students were included in statewide assessment programs, we also looked for circumstances in which students were not included in any form of state assessment. This update for the first time provides detailed information about the circumstances that allowed for the exclusion of students—in previous reports these circumstances were included in a more general table that contained participation policy variables. This analysis was appropriate because many state policies listed a number of reasons why a student could be excluded from the state assessment.
As indicated in Figure 2, 16 states specifically prohibited students from being excluded from statewide testing for any reason. Eight states permitted exclusion in the case of parent exemption and 10 states permitted exclusion in the case of a medical condition or illness. Some states also permitted students to be excluded from any form of statewide assessment in circumstances other than those noted in Figure 2. Examples of “other” circumstances included expulsion at the time of testing and family emergency or crisis. State specific information and details of “other” variables concerning the exclusion of students from statewide testing are located in Tables B-2a, B-2b and B-2c in Appendix B.
Figure 2. Summary of Circumstances in Which Students Are Not Included in any Form of Statewide Assessment, 2003
Changes Since 2001. In general, state policies in 2003 listed more circumstances that permitted a student not to be included in any form of statewide assessment than the 2001 policies listed. However, fewer states permitted emotional distress as a reason to exclude a student (down from 3 states in 2001 to 2 states in 2003). Some states that prohibited excluding students for certain reasons in 2001, explicitly permitted the exclusion for similar reasons in 2003. In 2001 the state of Alaska indicated that students may not be exempted for a number of reasons, including excessive absences or poor attendance; however, in 2003 the Alaska district test coordinator’s manual there was no mention of excessive absences and absence was used as a code to explain why a student did not take a statewide test.
Participation Decision-making Criteria—Allowed
Figure 3 summarizes the decision-making criteria that states used to determine how students with disabilities participated in statewide assessment systems. The criteria that states cited most frequently were: (1) instructional relevance/instructional goals (39 states), (2) current performance/level of functioning (19 states), (3) level of independence (17 states), and (4) student needs and characteristics (12 states). Additional participation criteria that states used when making participation decisions are included in Tables B-3a, B-3b and B-3c in Appendix B. The most frequently cited “other” variable refers to students’ use of accommodations or modifications in classroom instruction or assessment.
Figure 3. Summary of Participation Policy Variables That Can Be Used to Make Decisions About How Students With Disabilities Will Participate in Statewide Assessment, 2003
Changes Since 2001. In comparing data in Figure 3 (and in Tables B-3a, B-3b and B-3c of Appendix B) to 2001 data (Thurlow et al., 2002), several changes are evident. According to the 2001 report, 49 states indicated that the IEP team decided how students participated in the statewide assessment. All states in the current report indicated that assessment participation was an IEP team decision (and thus, this variable is not listed in Appendix B, Table B-3a). In most states this is one of several variables. Yet, as indicated in Table B-3a of Appendix B, in 7 states the IEP team was the only participation policy variable listed in the state’s policy (no columns are checked in the Appendix table).
Variables used to make decisions about how students with disabilities will participate in statewide assessment systems have changed since the 2001 analysis. Many of the primary variables used to determine how students will participate in statewide assessments in 2003—for example, instructional relevance/instructional goals, current performance/level of functioning, and level of independence—were added to our analysis for the first time. These additions reflect the increased frequency of their use in state policies since the 2001 analysis.
Participation Decision-making Criteria—Not Allowed
Many state policies outlined criteria that cannot be used to guide the decision-making process or criteria that may not serve as the sole basis for a participation decision. As shown in Figure 4, the criteria that specifically prohibited participation included: (1) the presence or category of disability (24 states); (2) the instructional program/program setting (14 states); (3) absences (14 states); and (4) cultural, social, linguistic, or environmental factors (14 states).
Figure 4. Summary of Participation Policy Variables That Cannot Be Used to Make Decisions About How Students With Disabilities Will Participate in Statewide Assessment, 2003
In addition to the criteria listed in Figure 4, several states’ policies cited “other” criteria that may not be used in the decision-making process for how students with disabilities will participate in statewide assessment systems. The additional criterion mentioned most frequently was disruptive behavior. Detailed information on participation decision-making criteria for each state and “other” participation criteria can be found in Tables B-4a, B-4b and B-4c of Appendix B.
Changes since 2001. According to Thurlow et al. (2002), 22 states prohibited the exclusion of a student due to the presence or category of a disability in 2001. By 2003, the number of states increased to 24. In 2001 only four states prohibited consideration of the expected performance of a student when making participation decisions, in 2003, the number of states increased to seven. Eight states prohibited exclusion due to extended absence from school in 2001, while in 2003 it was prohibited by 14 states.
Section 2—Accommodation Policies
All states have policies that address issues related to the use of accommodations by students with disabilities in state assessments. This section of the report addresses state policy language concerning groups eligible to receive accommodations, criteria that states can and cannot use to make decisions about a student’s use of an accommodation, guidance for the use of accommodations that are not on an approved list, accommodations involving another human to administer or record, and the use and impact of various types of accommodations.
Accommodation policies may apply to students with IEPs, students with 504 plans, students who are both English language learners (ELLs) and have a disability, students who qualify for Title I services, or to all students. Some states also have separate accommodation policies for ELL students, but we did not track those policies. Those readers interested in learning more about ELL policies are referred to Rivera, Collum, Shafer, and Sia (2005). Figure 5 provides information about the extent to which various categories of students—in addition to ELLs or students with disabilities—used accommodations during statewide assessments. As indicated in Figure 5, the written policies and other related documents in 33 states indicated that accommodations were to be provided for students with 504 plans—the remaining states did not specifically mention students with 504 plans in their written policies or guidelines. Seven states specifically indicated that no additional student groups (e.g., groups other than students with IEPs or 504 plans) could use accommodations on statewide assessments.
Several states listed additional circumstances under which a student who did not have an IEP or 504 plan could use accommodations during testing. As indicated in Figure 5, under the heading “all students may use without qualification,” 8 states permitted any student to use any standard accommodation without restriction. An additional 4 states permitted all students to use some standard accommodations or permitted all students to use standard accommodations under certain circumstances (such as a student with a temporary disability).
Figure 5. Summary of Additional Student Groups Eligible for Accommodations, 2003
Although we did not include ELL accommodation policies in our analysis, we did analyze whether states’ special education accommodation policies addressed students who have both an IEP and are ELLs. The special education accommodation policies of 13 states had information about the use of accommodations for students who had both a disability and are ELL. More detail about additional student groups eligible for accommodations along with information on the extent to which each state included different student groups in their accommodation policies is provided in Tables B-5a through B-5c in Appendix B.
Changes since 2001. As is evident in Figure 5, 12 states’ policies indicated that accommodations are available to all students—either with or without qualification—a significant increase from 2001 when only five states indicated that accommodations were available to all students. There was little change in the number of states that had policies that addressed accommodations for students who are both ELLs and have a disability—12 states and 13 states respectively in 2001 and 2003. In 2001, we did not track whether state accommodation policies listed “students receiving Title I services” as an additional student group eligible for accommodations; however in 2003, the policies of three states specifically mentioned Title I students.
Accommodation Decision-making Criteria That Are Allowed
States used a variety of criteria to guide the process for making decisions on student use of accommodations. According to Figure 6, the policies of 45 states indicated that the use of instructional accommodations was to be considered as a criterion in making decisions. Thirty-five states required that the IEP team (or other decision-making body) consider whether the accommodation produced an unfair advantage or maintained the validity of the assessment, and 21 states’ policies listed individual student needs and characteristics as criteria to use in making decisions about accommodations.
Figure 6. Summary of Accommodation Policy Variables That Can Be Used to Guide the Decision-making Process for Using Accommodations During Statewide Assessment, 2003
Some states differentiated between the types of accommodations that may be provided on exit exams and other large-scale assessments or between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests. We included a new category in the 2003 review called “Purpose or Nature of the Assessment” to track whether different accommodations were permitted on different types of assessments in a state. In 10 states, the purpose or nature of the assessment was one of the criteria that the IEP team was instructed to consider when making decisions about the use of accommodations.
Several states cited “other” additional criteria to consider in making accommodation decisions. Examples of these criteria include basing accommodation decisions on data about the usefulness of classroom accommodations and modifications and students’ previous experiences with the recommended accommodations. Four states specifically mentioned test security or confidentiality considerations. See Tables B-6a, B-6b, and B-6c in Appendix B for more detailed information.
Changes since 2001. In 2001, the policies of 39 states indicated that the use of instructional accommodations in the classroom should be considered a criterion for making decisions about which assessment accommodations should be provided—by 2003, the number of states using this criterion had increased to 45 states. The number of state accommodation policies specifically indicating that the accommodation must maintain test validity increased from 24 states in 2001 to 35 states in 2003. Additionally, the number of states that considered student needs and characteristics in the decision-making process rose slightly from 19 states in 2001 to 21 states in 2003.
Accommodation Decision-making Criteria—Not Allowed
As indicated in Figure 7, state policies also prohibited basing decisions about accommodations on certain criteria. Notably, these were much less prevalent than policies about allowed accommodations. The “not allowed” criteria can generally be placed into several categories: (1) nature or category of disability (8 states); (2) instructional setting or program setting (5 states); and (3) percent time or amount of services received (5 states). A few states prohibited basing decisions about accommodations on administrative convenience (2 states) and parent request (1 state). Two states cited other criteria that cannot be considered. The California policy indicated that individual teachers may not determine which accommodations a student is permitted to use and the Nevada policy stated that students may not be provided with unfamiliar accommodations. State specific information, as well as information about other criteria, is provided in Tables B-7a, B-7b, and B-7c in Appendix B.
Figure 7. Summary of Accommodation Policy Variables That Cannot Be Used to
Guide the Decision-making Process for Using Accommodations During Statewide
Changes Since 2001. Generally, the factors that may not be considered in the accommodations decision-making process have changed little since 2001. As in 2001, several states specifically prohibited the use of program setting (6 states in 2001; 5 states in 2003) and category of disability (8 states in both years).
Guidance for Using Accommodations that Are Not on the Approved List
Figure 8 provides a summary of the guidance for using accommodations that are not on an “approved” list found in state accommodation policies. In 2001, we did not track what happened when accommodations were used that were not on the approved list. Twenty-six states’ accommodation policies advised IEP teams or IEP team members to seek approval from their State Board or the Department of Education when recommending accommodations that were not on the approved list. A handful of other states’ policies (4 states) required that a committee review the request for an accommodation that was not on the approved list. An equal number of states (4 states) required IEP teams or IEP members to contact a specific person at the state or district level to inform them of the use of a non-approved accommodation. Two states’ policies indicated that non-approved accommodations may not be used on statewide assessments. Detailed information for each state is located in Tables B-8a and B-8b in Appendix B.
Figure 8. Summary of Guidelines for Using Accommodations That Are Not on the Approved List, 2003
Accommodations Involving Another Human to Administer or Record
For the first time in our analysis of state participation and accommodation policies, information was collected on guidelines for accommodations involving another human to administer or record—for example, an individual who served as an intermediary between the student and the mode of access to the test. These guidelines defined the role of the scribe when the IEP team had selected dictation of answers as an accommodation, prescribed conditions for reading test items aloud if the IEP team had selected reading test items as an accommodation, or provided guidance to sign language interpreters.
As indicated in Figure 9, approximately half of the states (26 states) had guidelines detailing instructions and procedures for scribes. Fewer than half of the states had guidelines for readers (20 states) or sign language interpreters (20 states). As indicated in Table B-9 in Appendix B, 17 states had guidelines for all three of these accommodations involving another human to administer or record, such as scribes, readers, or sign language interpreters.
Figure 9. Summary of Guidelines for the Administration of Accommodations Involving Another Human to Administer or Record, 2003
Types of Accommodations and Impact of Use
In this section of the report, the accommodations that states most often allow— both with and without restrictions—as well as the accommodations that states most often prohibit are reviewed. In this report, we organized the accommodations into five categories: presentation accommodations, equipment and materials accommodations, response accommodations, scheduling/timing accommodations, and setting accommodations.
We also analyzed how the states’ policies indicated that the accommodations were to be used: (1) Allowed—if the accommodation is used, the student must be given the score she or he earned, the student’s score must be aggregated, and the score must be used for accountability purposes; (2) Allowed with implications for scoring and/or aggregation—if the accommodation is used, the student automatically receives a certain score (e.g., zero or below basic) or the score is not aggregated; (3) Allowed in certain circumstances—the accommodation is allowed on some assessments and not others; and (4) Prohibited—the use of this accommodation on statewide and district-wide testing is not permitted. State specific detailed information about these accommodations is included in Tables B-10 through B-14 in Appendix B.
Presentation Accommodations. Presentation accommodations alter the way in which a test is presented to a student. Table 1 provides a summary of the presentation accommodations documented in state accommodation policies. The three most frequently documented accommodations were large print (allowed in 49 states), Braille (allowed in 49 states), and sign interpret directions (allowed in 49 states). However, large print was more often allowed without restrictions (47 states), while Braille was more often (in 11 states) allowed only in certain circumstances or had implications for resulting scores. In 5 states, the Braille accommodation was permitted; however, there were implications for scoring or aggregation. In 3 states, Braille was permitted only in certain circumstances, and in another 3 states there were both implications for scoring or aggregation when Braille was used and it was permitted only in certain circumstances. While sign language interpretation of test directions was also allowed to some extent in 49 states, it often had fewer restrictions attached to its use than the Braille accommodation.
“Read aloud” is represented in this analysis as two separate accommodations: read aloud directions and read aloud questions. Read aloud questions continued to be one of the more controversial accommodations (i.e., there was a lack of consensus across the states as to whether this accommodation should be allowed or prohibited). Forty-seven states permitted some or all tests to be read aloud; however, only 3 states permitted the use of this accommodation with no restrictions. Thirty-one states permitted questions to be read aloud only in certain circumstances (e.g., on the math test but not on the reading assessment). The policies of 13 other states allowed questions to be read aloud in certain circumstances and also indicated that the use of this accommodation had scoring or aggregation implications in the situations where it was allowed.
Thirty-one states permitted directions to be repeated, re-read, or clarified with no restrictions; only one state required that directions be read verbatim. In a few states there were implications for scoring if the directions were repeated or it was permitted in only certain circumstances. For example in one state, clarification of directions was allowed except on the reading portion of the test, while in another state the prompt for the writing assessment was read aloud two times to all students as part of the standard test administration.
As shown in Table 1, visual cues were permitted in 17 states without restrictions, administration by someone other than the usual test administrator was permitted with no restrictions in 23 states, and the use of additional examples was permitted in 6 states.
Table 1. Summary of Presentation Accommodations*
*In addition to the presentation accommodations listed in this table, 27 states have other presentation accommodations.
In addition to the accommodations listed in Table 1, 27 states had other presentation accommodations. See Tables B-10a, B10-b, and B10c for additional information about the other accommodations and for more detailed specifications. The other accommodations ranged from encouraging students to stay on task (permitted in 5 states), permitting oral directions to be accompanied by written directions (1 state), and to permitting more space to be put between test items (1 state).
Changes Since 2001. The number of states that permitted the use of the various presentation accommodations with or without restrictions changed relatively little between 2001 and 2003. The number of states that permitted the use of Braille without restriction increased from 35 states in 2001 to 38 states in 2003. There also was little change in the number of states that permitted questions to be read aloud without restriction (5 states in 2001 and 3 states in 2003), but the change was in a decreasing direction.
Equipment and Material Accommodations. Equipment and material accommodations are changes in the conditions of the assessment setting that involve the introduction of certain types of tools and assistive devices. Table 2 provides a summary of the equipment and material accommodations documented in state policies. Most are related to the presentation of the test, but some are related to response, such as using a calculator or abacus. The use of magnification and amplification equipment, special lighting and acoustics, templates and graph paper, noise buffers, and adaptive/special furniture was allowed in the majority of states.
Table 2. Summary of Equipment and Material Accommodations*
*In addition to the equipment and materials accommodations listed in this table, 36 states have other equipment and materials accommodations.
The calculator accommodation and audio/video equipment accommodation were the most controversial equipment and material accommodations. While the calculator accommodation was mentioned in the policies of 44 states, it was most often allowed only in certain circumstances and often had consequences for resulting scores. The use of audio/video equipment also appeared somewhat controversial. It was allowed without restriction in 16 states and could only be used in certain circumstances in 8 states, and could be used in certain circumstances with implications for scoring or aggregation in 4 states.
Seventeen states permitted the abacus to be used without restriction, while five states allowed its use only in certain circumstances—typically an abacus could only be used by students who were blind (or had other vision disabilities) or on certain tests. The abacus accommodation was permitted in certain circumstances and also had implications for scoring in 1 state. In this state (Arizona), use of an abacus was considered a standard accommodation on the math portion of the test for students who were blind, but it was considered a nonstandard accommodation for all other students.
Thirty-six states permitted the use of other equipment and materials accommodations. For example, the use of arithmetic tables was permitted in two states with no restrictions and in three other states with implications for scoring. Additional detail about these accommodations is available in Appendix B in Tables B-11a to B-11c.
Changes Since 2001. As was the case in 2001, with the exception of the calculator accommodation, most of the equipment and materials accommodations were considered non-controversial in 2003. The biggest change in the policies was that more state policies explicitly mentioned several non-controversial presentation equipment and materials accommodations— amplification equipment, light/acoustics, and noise buffer—in 2003 than in 2001. For example, in 2001, 34 states permitted the use of amplification equipment and the other 16 states made no mention of that accommodation; by 2003, 42 states permitted the use of amplification equipment without restriction. In 2001, 14 states permitted the use of a calculator without restriction, while 15 states permitted them to be used without restriction in 2003 and one state completely prohibited their use in both years.
Response Accommodations. Response accommodations are changes in how a student responds to elements of the assessment process. Table 3 summarizes the response accommodations documented by states. There was no general consensus across states for whether or not many of the response accommodations should be permitted in all circumstances or only with restrictions. For example, as indicated in Table 3, most states permitted the use of a computer or machine to provide responses on state assessments (45 states allowed it in some capacity); however, only 37 states allowed the use of that accommodation without restriction. When computers were allowed, it was often with special instructions about the availability of the spell checking function—also see the “Spellchecker/Assistance” row in Table 3.
Table 3. Summary of Response Accommodations*
*In addition to the response accommodations listed in this table, 10 states have other response accommodations.
The use of a Brailler was also permitted by the majority of states. It was permitted without restriction in 36 states and with restriction, allowed only in certain circumstances or allowed with implications for resulting scores, in others. Other commonly used response accommodations included writing in test booklets, using a communication device, and using a tape recorder.
Ten states also permitted the use of other response accommodations that are not listed in Table 3. These included access to reference materials, assistance with bubbling, and test administrator monitoring of the correct placement of student responses in the student’s answer booklet. For additional detail about the response accommodations, see Tables B-12a to B-12c in Appendix B.
Changes Since 2001. Of the 49 states that allowed a proctor or scribe to record a student’s responses in some manner (i.e., either without restriction, in particular circumstances, or with implications for scoring), 32 permitted the use of this accommodation without restriction. In 2001, 31 states allowed the proctor or scribe accommodation without restriction. Fewer states permitted the use of a spellchecker without restrictions in 2003 than in 2001 (n = 5 in 2003 and n = 7 in 2001); however, more states permitted its use with either implications for scoring or under certain circumstances in 2003 than in 2001 (n = 14 in 2003 and n = 9 in 2001).
Scheduling/Timing Accommodations. Scheduling/timing accommodations—changes in the timing or scheduling of an assessment—are summarized in Table 4. The most frequently allowed accommodations in this category were testing with breaks (46 states) and extended time (45 states). It should be noted that while several states put restrictions on the use of extended time, it was allowed in 29 states without restrictions. The only accommodations in this category that were prohibited by some states were extended time, with breaks, and over multiple days.
Table 4. Summary of Scheduling/Timing Accommodations*
*In addition to the scheduling/timing accommodations listed in this table, 11 states have “other” scheduling/timing accommodations.
Eleven states listed other scheduling/timing accommodations that did not fit into any of the categories that we tracked. Details about other accommodations are presented in Tables B-13a, B-13b, and B-13c in Appendix B. Among the other accommodations was the administration of subtests in a different order and the termination of a section of a test when a student had completed all the items he or she could complete.
Changes Since 2001. Between 2001 and 2003, there was an increase in the number of states that mentioned many of the timing/scheduling accommodations. In 2001, 26 states permitted the use of extended time with no restrictions, 16 states permitted it with restrictions, and 3 states completely prohibited the use of extended time—by 2003, 29 states permitted the extended time accommodation with no restrictions, 16 permitted it with restrictions, and only 2 states totally prohibited it. With breaks was mentioned in the policies of 47 states in 2003 (including 1 state that prohibited its use); up from 43 states mentioning their use, and none prohibiting their use, in 2001.
The multiple days accommodation refers to the administration of a test over several days that is normally administered in one day. This accommodation appears to have become more controversial since 2001. In 2001, the use of multiple days was permitted in 19 states without restriction, it was allowed with restrictions in 1 state, and it was completely prohibited in no states; in 2003, multiple days could be used without restriction in 15 states, with restrictions in 7 states, and was completely prohibited in 4 states.
Setting Accommodations. Setting accommodations are changes in the test location or environment. These accommodations include individual or small group administration, administration in a separate room or carrel, and the proximity of the student’s seat to the test administrator (see Table 5). In general, accommodations in this category were not controversial (i.e., the majority of the accommodations in this category were allowed to some degree). Forty-seven states permitted testing of students in small groups with no states restricting the use of this accommodation. Forty-six states also permitted testing of students individually and 40 states allowed students to be tested in a carrel with no restrictions. The most controversial of setting accommodations was testing students in their homes (the use of this accommodation was restricted in 5 states and was prohibited in 3 states).
Table 5. Summary of Setting Accommodations*
*In addition to the setting accommodations listed in this table, 7 states have other setting accommodations.
Seven states listed other setting accommodations in their policies. Two states’ policies indicated that students may be tested in hospitals. The freedom to move as needed was listed as an accommodation in three states. See Tables B-14a, B-14b, and B-14c for additional information about the other accommodations and for more detailed specifications.
Changes Since 2001. Even though the testing of students in their homes remained controversial it had become less controversial than it was in 2001. In 2001, 12 states permitted testing students in their home without restriction (as compared to 20 states in 2003). Six states permitted this accommodation in 2001, but placed restrictions on its use (as compared to 4 states in 2003), and 1 state prohibited it in 2001 (compared to no states in 2003). More states specifically mentioned carrels as a setting option in 2003 than in 2001 (40 states in 2003 and 32 states in 2001).
State policies on participation and accommodations continue not only to evolve, but to evolve at a rapid pace. In addition to the increased rate of change, the volume of written materials regarding participation and accommodations also is increasing. Many states now have a variety of documents (e.g., policies, administrative codes or rules, procedures, and training materials) that provide guidance.
The 2003 analysis provides a brief glimpse into many of the complex issues related to the participation of students with disabilities in state accountability systems through answers to the questions raised at the beginning of this report. Another question was raised but not reported here because of difficulty verifying the data—What happens to the scores of students with disabilities who use nonstandard accommodations during statewide assessments? Nearly one-third of states had no information in their policies on the scoring consequences of using nonstandard accommodations. Many states indicated some type of consequence would occur such as the scores would be coded differently, scores would not be aggregated, or students automatically would be given the lowest possible score. Key findings from this study were:
· States continue to specify criteria that can and cannot be used to guide the process of determining how a student will participate in state assessments. The most frequently cited criteria that can be used were instructional relevance/instructional goals, current performance/level of functioning, level of independence, and student needs and characteristics. Commonly cited criteria that could not be used to make participation decisions were presence or category of disability, cultural, social, linguistic, and/or environmental factors, and student absences.
· More states are allowing all students to use accommodations.
· States continue to use a variety of criteria to guide the process for making decisions about student use of accommodations during assessment. Most states specify that the use of instructional accommodations be considered when making decisions on assessment accommodations. Another frequently cited criterion that states used is whether the accommodation resulted in an unfair advantage or maintained the validity of the assessment. Some states specifically prohibited decision-makers from using certain criteria when making accommodation decisions. Commonly listed criteria that could not be used included nature/category of disability, instructional setting/program setting, and percent time/amount of services received.
· There was variability among state polices relative to the use, and consequences of using, a nonstandard accommodation.
· Changes in the types of accommodations used were most evident in the clarifications and specifications attached to specific accommodations in state policies, specifically concerning the implications for resulting scores. More states documented specific equipment and material, scheduling/timing, and setting accommodations in 2003 than did in 2001. The most controversial accommodations continued to be read aloud (questions), calculator, spellchecker, and proctor/scribe.
· Many states provided guidance for IEP teams or IEP team members on the use of accommodations that were not on an approved list. Most required that decision makers seek the approval of an outside entity, such as the state board or department of education before recommending the use of an accommodation not included on the approved list.
· Many states have guidelines that specify the roles and responsibilities of other humans who assist in the administration of certain accommodations (scribes, readers, and sign language interpreters, for example); however, there was great variability in the breadth and depth of these guidelines.
Some of the other circumstances that permitted students to be excluded from the general assessment may be a cause for concern. For example, one state policy indicated that a student may be excused from testing if required accommodations could not be provided. Another state policy stated that students may be exempted due to lack of cognitive ability and lack of exposure to material within the range and scope of the test.
The present report provides updated answers to questions asked in previous reports and included several new questions that yielded important information about emerging features of state participation and accommodation policies. It is clear that as policies on existing topics evolve and new topics emerge, the overall picture of participation and accommodations for students with disabilities will become increasingly complex.
Quenemoen, R., Thompson, S., & Thurlow, M. (2003). Measuring academic achievement of students with significant cognitive disabilities: Building understanding of alternate assessment scoring criteria (Synthesis Report 50). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Rivera, C., Collum, E., Shafer, L., & Sia Jr., J. K. (2005). An analysis of state assessment policies addressing the accommodation of English language learners. In Rivera (Ed.) A national review of state assessment policy and practice for English language learners. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Thompson, S., & Thurlow, M. (2003). 2003 State special education outcomes: Marching on. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Thurlow, M., House, A., Boys, C., Scott, D., & Ysseldyke, J. (2000). State participation and accommodation policies for students with disabilities: 1999 update (Synthesis Report 33). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Thurlow, M.L., Lazarus, S., Thompson, S., & Robey, J. (2002). 2001 state policies on assessment participation and accommodations (Synthesis Report 46). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Thurlow, M.L., Scott, D.L., & Ysseldyke, J.E. (1995a). A compilation of states’ guidelines for accommodations in assessments for students with disabilities (Synthesis Report 18). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Thurlow, M.L., Scott, D.L., & Ysseldyke, J.E. (1995b). A compilation of states’ guidelines for including students with disabilities in assessments (Synthesis Report 17). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Thurlow, M., Seyfarth, A., Scott, D., & Ysseldyke, J. (1997). State assessment policies on participation and accommodations for students with disabilities: 1997 update (Synthesis Report 29). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Thurlow, M.L., Ysseldyke, J.E., & Silverstein, B. (1993). Testing accommodations for students with disabilities: A review of the literature (Synthesis Report 4). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
VanGetson, G., Minnema, J., & Thurlow, M. (2004). Rapid changes, repeated challenges: States’ out-of-level testing policies for 2003-2004 (Out-of-Level Testing Project Report 13). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
State Documents Used in Analysis of Participation and Accommodations Policies
Participation and Accommodation Guidelines by State
Table B-1a. Additional Testing Options*
testing options definition: The state has options for students with disabilities
to participate in the state assessments in addition to the
following: (a) the general assessment, (b) the general assessment with
accommodations, and (c) the alternate assessment.
Table B-1b. Description of Additional Testing Options
Table B-2a: Circumstances in Which Students Are Not Included in any Form of Statewide Assessment
Note: X = Criteria that may be used
to exclude a student from participation in statewide assessment systems.
Table B-2b. Specifications and Descriptions of “Other” Circumstances in Which Students Are Not Included in any Form of Statewide Assessment
Table B-2c. Specification of Circumstances in Which Students Are Not Included in any Form of Statewide Assessment
Table B-3a. Participation Policy Variables That Can Be Used to Make Decisions About How Students With Disabilities Will Participate in Statewide Assessment
= Criteria that may be used to guide the decision making process for how
students with disabilities will participate in statewide assessment systems.
Table B-3b. Specifications and Descriptions of “Other” Participation Policy Variables That Can Be Used to Make Decisions About How Students With Disabilities Will Participate in Statewide Assessment
Table B-3c. Specification of Participation Policy Variables That Can Be Used to Make Decisions About How Students With Disabilities Will Participate in Statewide Assessment
Table B-4a. Participation Policy Variables That Cannot Be Used to Make Decisions About How Students with Disabilities Will Participate in Statewide Assessment