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NCEO - National Center on Educational Outcomes

Accommodations for English Language Learners with Disabilities

Overview

Assessment accommodations allow English Language Learners (ELLs) with disabilities to accurately demonstrate their knowledge and skills. IEP teams must carefully consider the unique needs of ELLs with disabilities when making accommodations decisions. The intersection of a disability and second language acquisition affects the way that these students demonstrate knowledge and skills. Accommodations designed for typical ELLs, or for fluent English speakers with disabilities, may not give enough support to ELLs with disabilities.

States vary a great deal in the specific accommodations that they allow. All 50 states have written guidelines that indicate allowable assessment accommodations for all students with disabilities, including ELLs. Some states have specific accommodations policies for ELLs with disabilities. The specific policies typically provide separate lists of linguistic and disability-related accommodations. Educators can choose accommodations from both lists. Choosing from two separate accommodations lists created for different kinds of students is not an ideal approach. ELLs with disabilities may not receive accommodations that address their combined needs. Currently there are few research studies that directly address accommodations for this group of students. The field urgently needs more research to help educators improve accommodations decision making for ELLs with disabilities.

More information about accommodations for native-English and fluent-English speaking students with disabilities is available.