NCEO Logo
NCEO - National Center on Educational Outcomes

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Overview

Assessment accommodations are changes in testing materials or procedures that enable students to participate in assessments in a way that assesses abilities rather than disabilities. Without accommodations, the assessment may not accurately measure the student's knowledge and skills.

Assessment accommodations are generally grouped into the following categories:

  • Presentation (e.g., repeat directions, read aloud, large print, braille, etc.)
  • Equipment and material (e.g., calculator, amplification equipment, manipulatives, etc.)
  • Response (e.g., mark answers in book, scribe records response, point, etc.)
  • Setting (e.g., study carrel, student's home, separate room, etc.)
  • Timing/Scheduling (e.g., extended time, frequent breaks, etc.)

Some test changes affect item or test validity. These test changes are often called modifications, or non-standard accommodations.

Several federal laws address the provision of accommodations for students with disabilities. Under the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states must have accommodation guidelines for assessments and report the number of students using accommodations during state and district assessments.

All 50 states now have written guidelines to indicate which assessment accommodations are allowed. Some states' policies also address instructional accommodations. States develop these guidelines to ensure that test scores appropriately reflect what students know and are able to do. Research on accommodations is growing rapidly. The research includes policy studies, evaluation studies, and experimental comparisons.