of IEP/504 Accommodations Under
Classroom and Standardized Testing
Conditions: A Preliminary Report on
Synthesis Report 63
• Martha L. Thurlow • Karen Evans Stout
Rachel F. Quenemoen
All rights reserved. Any or all
portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed
without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:
Bottsford-Miller, N., Thurlow, M. L.,
Stout, K. E., & Quenemoen, R. F.
A Comparison of IEP/504 accommodations under classroom and
standardized testing conditions: A preliminary report on SEELS
Data (Synthesis Report 63). 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/Synthesis63/
Why This Report?
Data Source and
Discussion of Accommodations,
Modification, and Alternate Testing
Plans (IEP’s) and 504 Plans often
recommend the use of accommodations to
facilitate the learning of classroom
material by students with disabilities.
Since the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) in 1997, students
with disabilities are expected to
participate in state and district-wide
assessments, using appropriate
accommodations. Large-scale assessment
assumes the use of standardized testing
conditions to allow for comparability of
test scores; however, some students with
disabilities are better able to
demonstrate their knowledge when allowed
to use accommodations that offset the
effect of their disability on the
construct tested. For these students,
de-standardizing the test conditions is
the only meaningful way to obtain an
accurate estimate of achievement.
In 1999 the Special
Education Elementary Longitudinal Study
(SEELS) began to examine the experience
of elementary age students in schools,
and pertinent to this report, their
experience in testing situations,
particularly the use of accommodations.
In this paper, using data from SEELS, we
examine accommodation use across
different educational conditions,
comparing IEP and 504 Plan
accommodations to what students
reportedly received in the classroom and
on standardized tests.
Results suggest a lack
of alignment in accommodation use among
IEP/504 plans, classroom conditions, and
state testing situations. Additionally,
there is some variability in what
happens for students with different
categorical labels. Since the data for
this report was obtained from an early
administration of the SEELS (Wave 2),
monitoring of the alignment issue should
importance placed on including students
with disabilities in large-scale
researchers, and policymakers are
pressed to understand who is receiving
accommodations, what accommodations are
provided, whether there is consistency
in accommodation use across educational
settings, and how accommodations impact
test scores. In 1999 the Special
Education Elementary Longitudinal Study
(SEELS) began a 6-year study of
elementary age students that will help
to answer some of these questions as
well as others related to the
experiences of students with
One of several areas
that SEELS researchers have begun
examining is accommodation and support,
as used by students with disabilities in
language arts classes. Comparisons have
been made across disability categories,
general and special education
classrooms, and several additional
student demographic characteristics. In
a similar national longitudinal study on
the experiences of middle and high
school students, National Longitudinal
Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) researchers
examined the frequency with which
different accommodations were used on
standardized tests, comparing disability
categories, race/ethnicity, and income
Both the SEELS and NLTS2
studies were commissioned following the
reauthorization of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in
1997, which for the first time in
special education law confirmed that
students with disabilities were to
participate in state and district-wide
assessments, with accommodations where
appropriate. This dramatic change in
special education federal law in 1997
promoted the need for the SEELS and
NLTS2 studies, which to some extent
because of their timing would both
reflect and be caught up in the changes
that were sure to occur over time.
Similar to previous
SEELS and NLTS2 reports on
accommodation, the goal of this report
is to examine accommodation use during
the elementary and middle school years.
Unlike previous reports, we examine
accommodation use across different
educational conditions, comparing IEP
and 504 Plan accommodations to what
students reportedly received in the
classroom and on standardized tests. In
doing this, we hope to gain a better
understanding of the consistency with
which accommodations are provided. This
report is a preliminary analysis based
on SEELS data available at http://www.seels.net/.
The value of
implementing large-scale assessment
under standardized conditions is in the
comparability of test scores. If all
else is held constant, score differences
can be attributed to differences in
learning achievement (Salvia & Ysseldyke,
2001). As Salvia and Ysseldyke
recognize, however, the process of
standardization can prevent the accurate
measurement of achievement for students
with disabilities. In order to
accurately measure achievement, such
students need accommodations that offset
the effect of the disability on their
ability to demonstrate knowledge
(McDonnell, McLaughlin, & Morison, 1997;
Rose, 2000). In other words, in some
circumstances the only way to obtain a
meaningful estimate of achievement is to
de-standardize the testing process
(e.g., providing enlarged print for a
student with a visual impairment, or
providing a reader for a student with a
reading disability; Phillips, 1994).
Research suggests that
when some accommodations are provided
consistently in both the original
learning environment and the testing
process, these accommodations have a
greater impact on student assessment
performance. For example, Russell (1999)
compared the impact of handwritten
responses to typed responses on
standardized test scores. Results
suggested that students performed better
when they were allowed to record answers
in the format in which they learned and
practiced the skills and knowledge. That
is, students who were accustomed to
writing on computers tended to generate
higher quality responses on open-ended
test items when allowed to use computers
than students less accustomed to writing
on a computer. Similarly, students who
were not as computer proficient
performed better on open-ended
standardized test questions when allowed
to handwrite answers than students more
accustomed to writing on computers.
Although Russell was not studying
students with disabilities, the results
support the need to match accommodations
used in testing to accommodations
typically available to students in class
in order to maximize students’ ability
to demonstrate learning achievement. (Sireci,
Scarpati, & Li, 2005).
Why This Report?
Given the high stakes
associated with tests for both students
and schools, and given research
suggesting that students perform better
when provided similar accommodations in
both classroom learning and testing
situations, we need to understand what
is occurring in classrooms and on
assessments, beyond looking at state
policy guidelines and reports. In
addition to observations, an effective
way of determining what accommodations
are available to students with
disabilities is to ask teachers and
school personnel to report on student
IEP/504 Plans and accommodation use in
classrooms and on standardized tests.
This preliminary report
compares the reported proportions of IEP/504
Plan accommodations with the proportions
of accommodations used in class and in
standardized testing conditions. The
purpose is to explore proportional
consistency across conditions.
Additionally, we compare the use of
various accommodations across four of
the most common disability categories.
Assessment accommodation policies
influence the accommodations that may or
may not be used and how scores are
counted; nevertheless, a general
understanding of how accommodation
practices vary across students with
differing disabilities will facilitate
student participation in education in a
fair and appropriate manner.
Data Source and
The data for this report
are from the Special Education
Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS), a
national study conducted by SRI
International and Westat for the U.S.
Department of Education. The purpose of
the SEELS study is to document "the
educational experiences and progress of
thousands of elementary and middle
school students nationwide who received
special education services in 1999" (p.
1). To obtain a more comprehensive
picture of the experiences of
participants, information is being
collected over a 6-year period from
parents, teachers, and students (SEELS
Newsletter, 2003). This information
pertains to a variety of experiences
students with disabilities have, ranging
from academic performance and school
experiences, to family supports, social
adjustment, and personal growth.
Information is being collected in three
waves. Our review is limited to
2001-2002, Wave 2 information available
on the SEELS Web site pertaining to
accommodations as required or
recommended on student IEP/504 Plans and
their reported use in language arts
classes and on standardized tests.
SEELS Sample. The
SEELS sample consists of 11,512 students
receiving special education in at least
one grade from first to seventh grades.
The representative sample was selected
from 245 LEAs and 32 special schools
across the country so that statistical
summaries from SEELS will "generalize to
special education students nationally as
a group, to each of the 13 federal
special education disability categories,
and to each single-year age cohort"
SEELS Data Collection
Instruments. SEELS researchers
collect information about students
repeatedly as they progress from
elementary to middle school and from
middle school to high school. Sources
include: (1) a parent/guardian
interview; (2) a Teacher Survey; (3)
School Program Survey; (4) School
Characteristics Survey; (5) transcripts;
and (6) direct assessments of students’
reading and math skills, self concept
and attitudes about school.
Selection of SEELS Data
on Accommodations for This Report.
We were most interested in three
specific uses of accommodations, that
is, what accommodations were stated on
students’ IEP/504 Plans, what
accommodations were used in classrooms,
and what were used on standardized
tests. Accordingly, although all four of
the above listed questionnaires have
questions pertaining to accommodations,
we chose as our data source the two that
were completed by people most likely to
know what the student was receiving on a
daily basis and to have direct access to
the student’s IEP/504 Plan. These
questionnaires are the Teacher Survey,
which was completed by the student’s
language arts teacher and the School
Program Survey, which was completed by
the school person who knows the
student’s programs well.
In terms of selecting
the accommodations of interest for this
report, we noted some discrepancies in
the wording of items on the data sources
(e.g., the terms "modification" and
"accommodation" are used
interchangeably, making it unclear how
respondents may have interpreted the
questions). This interchange of terms is
consistent with the terminology in IDEA
97, which was changed in IDEA 2004
because the field did not actually use
the terms accommodation and modification
interchangeably. Specific accommodations
were selected to include in the report
either because, as a response choice,
they were similar across conditions (IEP,
language arts class, and standardized
testing) or a similarly worded response
choice was available under the three
conditions. These included: extended
time, read aloud, setting
accommodations, response accommodations,
modified test, and alternative/alternate
tests. Accommodations focused only on
the classroom are not discussed (e.g.,
Another discrepancy was
the use of the words "alternate" and
"alternative." Survey instruments used
the term "alternate tests or
assessments", but data tables referred
to "alternative assessments." The word
"alternative" was also used with other
nouns such as "alternative settings." We
use "alternate" in this report to refer
to alternate assessments.
Selection of Student
Groups to Compare. SEELS data tables
present results for twelve disability
categories. In this report we describe
recommended and used by the four most
prevalent disability categories. These
groups represent approximately 90% of
all students with disabilities (U.S.
Department of Education, 2002). These
categories include learning disability
(LD), speech/language impairment (SI),
mental retardation (MR), and emotional
disturbance (ED). To view disaggregated
information for less frequently
appearing disabilities or additional
information about the study, go to the
SEELS Web site at http://www.seels.net/.
Definitions. For the
purposes of this report, the following
definitions were used:
"those alterations to test presentation,
setting, timing, scheduling, and
response that mitigate the barrier of
disability and allow a student with
disabilities to demonstrate actual
achievement in a particular academic
area without changing the underlying
construct of what is being measured" (Shaftel,
Yang, Glasnapp, & Poggio, 2005, p. 358).
It follows that test accommodations
"enable students to participate in state
or district assessments in a way that
assess abilities rather than
disabilities" (Lehr & Thurlow, 2003, p.
The Standards (AERA,
1999) define a test modification
as "changes made in the content, format,
and/or administration procedure of a
test in order to accommodate test takers
who are unable to take the test under
standard test conditions" (p. 183). For
the purposes of some statewide testing
programs, a distinction is usually made
between accommodation and modification
in that an accommodation does not
alter the construct measured, while a
modification is a change that alters the
construct (Sireci, Scarpati, & Li,
2005). In the SEELS data such a
distinction is not made and the words
are used interchangeably.
time—"Increase the allowable
length of time to complete a
test or assignment (and/or). . .
change the way the time is
organized" (Cortiella, 2005, p.
b) Read aloud—is
a presentation accommodation,
which "allow students to access
information in ways that do not
require them to visually read
standard print. These alternate
modes of access are auditory,
multi-sensory, tactile, and
visual" (Cortiella, 2005, p.3).
the location in which a test or
assignment is given or the
conditions of the assessment
setting" (Cortiella, 2005, p.3).
students to complete activities,
assignments, and tests in
different ways to solve or
organize problems using some
type of assistive device or
organizer" (Cortiella, 2005, p.
test preparation, on
task/focusing prompts, and
others that do not fit into
other categories" (Thurlow,
Elliott, & Ysseldyke, 2003, p.
Alternate assessments are tools used
to evaluate the performance of students
who are unable to participate in general
state assessments even with
accommodations (Thurlow, Elliott, &
Organization of the
findings. In what follows we first
present the overall comparison of
accommodations as stated on IEP/504
Plans, as used in the classroom, and as
used for standardized tests. We then
show differences in accommodation by
disability type. Each section is
followed by a short discussion. This
same presentation format continues for
modified test and alternate test.
Finally we consider the findings and
their implications as a whole.
Extended Time by
Condition. Differences across
conditions existed in the relative
proportion of students receiving
extended time (see Figure 1). Although
76.2% of students had this accommodation
stated on IEP/504 Plans, and 75.6% were
reported to have received additional
time taking tests in language arts
classes, only 53.3% received this
accommodation on standardized tests.
Figure 1. Extended Time: Disabilities Combined
Standard error of measurement (SEM): IEP/504
Plan (IEP/504) = 1.6 (n = 4,933),
Language Arts Class (Class) = 1.5 (n =
5,243), Standardized Tests (Test) = 2.1
(n = 3,241).
Extended Time by
Disability Group. The proportional
use of extended time varied somewhat
across disability categories and
condition. Figure 2 shows that of the
four disability categories, only the
percentage of students with mental
retardation using extended time across
conditions tended to appear equivalent (MR:
IEP/504 = 71.0%, Class = 71.2%, Tests =
71.5%), There was more variability for
other disability groups. Students with
emotional disturbance and learning
disability tended to have congruence
between the IEP/504 plan and use of the
accommodation in language arts classes,
with less use of the accommodation in
the standardized testing condition. The
greatest disparity occurred for students
with a speech/language impairment (LD:
IEP/504 = 83.5%, Class = 85.0%, Test =
58.1%; SI: IEP/504 = 66.4%, Class =
61.2%, Test = 35.2%; ED: IEP/504 =
78.4%, Class = 78.5%, Test = 59.9%).
These students were least likely to
receive extended time in any condition.
Figure 2. Extended Time: Separated by
- LD: IEP/504 = 2.3 (n = 557),
Class = 2.2 (n = 605), Test = 3.3 (n =
458); MR: IEP/504 = 2.7 (n =
550), Class = 2.8 (n = 573), Test = 3.7
(n = 286); SI: IEP/504 = 4.7 (n =
202), Class = 4.3 (n = 274), Test = 4.3
(n = 238); ED: IEP/504 = 2.8 (n =
448), Class = 3.1 (n = 470), Test = 3.8
(n = 343).
Discussion. The provision of
additional time is one of the most
frequently used accommodations for
assessments (Sireci, Li, & Scarpati,
2003). In a review of research on time
accommodations, Sireci et al. (2003)
found evidence suggesting that students
with disabilities tend to benefit more
from extended time than students without
disabilities. Sireci, Scarpati, and Li
(2005) analyzed test accommodations in
terms of the interaction hypothesis,
which postulates that an accommodation
does not threaten the validity of test
scores if the use of it improves the
performance of students with
disabilities but does not improve the
performance of students without
disabilities. These researchers found
that extended time improves the
performance for all students but that
students with disabilities experience
The impact of extended
time on the validity of interpretations
of test scores is not well understood.
Although predictive validity appears to
be reduced when timing accommodations
are used on the SAT, the population
(i.e., college bound, high school
students) is not representative of
typical K-12 students who require
accommodations, nor is there a
comparable criterion to college GPA (Sireci,
Li, & Scarpati, 2003). Considering that
76.2% of students with disabilities had
extended time on their IEP/504 Plan, and
over half of the students taking the
standardized test (53.3%) were reported
as having received it, better
understanding of the effects of this
accommodation on test scores is
Read Aloud by Condition.
The percentage of students provided a
read aloud accommodation, both in class
and as stated on IEP/504 Plans, was
somewhat greater than the percentage of
students who received a read aloud
accommodation on standardized tests (IEP/504
= 50.0%, Class = 51.5%, Test = 40.6%).
Read Aloud by Disability
Group. The proportion of the read
aloud accommodation varied somewhat
across disability categories (see Figure
4). Overall, students with mental
retardation were most likely to receive
this accommodation and to receive it
consistently across conditions (MR: IEP/504
= 60.7%; Class = 60.9%; Test = 68.1%).
Students with speech/language
impairment, on the other hand, appeared
least likely to receive a read aloud
accommodation. This pattern of
discrepancy across conditions was
similar for students with emotional
disturbance and learning disability.
Specifically, similar proportions of
students with learning disability,
speech/language impairment, and
emotional disturbance appeared to
receive a read aloud accommodation
fairly consistently between IEP/504 Plan
recommendations and in class, but were
less likely to receive a read aloud
accommodation when taking standardized
tests (LD: IEP/504 = 53.1%; Class =
57.0%; Test = 44.9%; SI: IEP/504 =
45.9%; Class = 40.6%; Test = 26.6%; ED:
IEP/504 = 42.0%; Class = 44.0%; Test =
Figure 3. Read Aloud: Disabilities
* SEM: IEP/504 = 1.8 (n = 4,933), Class = 1.8 (n = 5,243), Test = 2.1 (n = 3,241)
** n’s are the same for figures 7 and 9
Figure 4. Read Aloud: Separated by
* SEM - LD:
IEP/504 = 3.1 (n = 557), Class = 3.0
(n = 605), Test = 3.4 (n = 458);
MR: IEP/504 = 2.9 (n = 550),
Class = 3.0 (n = 573), Test = 3.8 (n
SI: IEP/504 = 5.0 (n = 202),
Class = 4.3 (n = 274), Test = 4.0 (n
ED: IEP/504 = 3.4 (n = 448),
Class = 3.7 (n = 470), Test = 3.7 (n
All n’s are the same for figures 8
Read Aloud Discussion.
The provision of a reader is one of the more controversial assessment accommodations (see Thurlow, Lazarus, Thompson, & Robey, 2002). As such, it is somewhat encouraging that such a high percentage of students with disabilities received reading accommodations when taking standardized tests (i.e., between 40% and 50% on average). Additionally, there existed an approximate 10% discrepancy between what students were reported to receive in their language arts class and the read aloud accommodation provided on standardized tests.
One hypothesis for this discrepancy is that on a day-to-day basis, teachers may employ accommodations in class that optimize student performance and participation, but when administering standardized tests be less inclined, due to state policy or for other reasons, to alter the standardized procedures. If this hypothesis is correct, the extent to which students are exposed to different expectations in class than on standardized tests may be of concern.
Setting Accommodation by Condition. From Figure 5, it is apparent that students who took the standardized test received setting accommodations with greater frequency than those who where given setting accommodations in class or as stated on their IEP/504 Plans. Only 20.2% of students with disabilities had a setting accommodation on their IEP/504 Plans, and while a slightly larger percentage (24.5%) received a setting accommodation in class, almost 40% of students who took the standardized test received this accommodation.
Figure 5. Setting Accommodation: Disabilities Combined
* SEM: IEP/504 = 1.5 (n = 4,933), Class = 1.6 (n = 5,243), Test = 1.3 (n = 3,241)
Figure 6. Setting Accommodation: Separated by Disability
* SEM - LD: IEP/504 = 2.2 (n = 557), Class = 1.6 (n = 605), Test = 3.4 (n = 458); MR: IEP/504 = 2.3 (n = 550), Class = 2.5 (n = 573), Test = 4.1 (n = 286); SI: IEP/504 = 4.1 (n = 202), Class = 3.6 (n = 274), Test = 3.9 (n = 238); ED: IEP/504 = 3.0 (n = 448), Class = 3.3 (n = 470), Test = 3.9 (n = 343).
Setting Accommodation by Disability Group. As shown in Figure 6, there was minimal discrepancy between IEP/504 Plans and classroom conditions. Students with speech/language impairment were the only group of students with proportional consistency in settings accommodations across all conditions (SI: IEP/504 = 21.7%, Class = 20.8%, Tests = 24.2%). Students with emotional disturbance (ED: IEP/504 = 24.9%, Class = 27.3%, Tests = 43.1%) were next but had more discrepancy in the testing condition. For students with learning disability or students with mental retardation, differences in proportional use between IEP/504 Plans and standardized test conditions ranged from approximately 30% to 34% (LD: IEP/504 = 14.5%, Class = 23.2%, Tests = 44.0%; MR: IEP/504 = 19.3%, Class = 20.8%, Tests = 53.7%).
Setting Accommodation Discussion.. With the exception of students with speech/language impairment, who received proportionally consistent setting accommodations, the reason for the considerable discrepancy between IEP/504 Plans, in-class accommodations and standardized testing is unclear. The general lack of controversy surrounding the use of setting accommodations, however, may account for more use of this accommodation during testing, even in the absence of IEP/504 Plan documentation (see Thurlow, Lazarus, et al., 2002). Another explanation may be that the individuals completing the IEP/504 Plan and in-class questions on accommodations were not focusing on location when considering the setting accommodation physical adaptationn, as might have been the case when the setting option was worded alternative setting
Response Accommodations by Condition. Response accommodation information was not available across all three conditions. Consequently, it was not possible to make direct comparisons across conditions for any response accommodation. Table 1 provides a summary of response accommodations listed on the SEELS questionnaires with all disabilities combined.
Table 1. Response Accommodations
| Combined Disabilities Accommodation Use/Listed|
Language Arts Class
Student responses dictated/ 7.4
written by someone else (1.1)
More frequent feedback
Alternative format for responding
Response Accommodation by Disability Group. In terms of student responses dictated/written by someone else as the response accommodation, students with mental retardation were most likely to receive this accommodation (MR: 14.2%, SEM = 2.9%), followed by students with emotional disturbance (ED: 8.2%, SEM = 2.1%), learning disability (LD: 6.3%, SEM = 1.6%), and speech/language impairment (SI: 5.3%, SEM = 2.0%). The more frequent feedback accommodation was documented on IEP/504 Plans and provided in largest proportion to students with mental retardation (MR: IEP/504 = 43.2%, SEM = 2.9%, Class = 58.9%, SEM = 3.0%) followed by students with emotional disturbance (ED: IEP/504 = 44.2%, SEM = 3.4%, Class = 62.7%, SEM = 3.6%), learning disability (LD: IEP/504 = 34.4%, SEM = 2.9%, Class = 48.8%, SEM = 3.1%), and speech/language impairment (SI: IEP/504 = 28.6%, SEM = 4.5%, Class = 36.1%, SEM = 4.2%). The frequency with which students in each disability category received an alternate format of response was too low to accurately estimate the proportion of students receiving this accommodation.
Response Accommodation Discussion. Although direct comparisons were not possible across conditions, one accommodation in particular stands out, that is the accommodation of more frequent feedback. A relatively high proportion of students either received this accommodation in class or were recommended to receive it based on their IEP/504 Plan. Since there is some evidence to suggest that some students perform better with ongoing encouragement, feedback, and reinforcement (see Tindal & Fuchs, 1999 for a review of studies), we need to better understand the frequency of use for this accommodation and its effect on standardized test validity.
Modified Test by Condition. The extent that student IEP/504 Plans document test modifications, and the extent that students received modified tests in class and on standardized tests is somewhat unclear. Interpreting this data is difficult due to the fact that respondents may have interpreted the term modificationn as synonymous with accommodation. Additionally, some changes to the way in which a standardized test is administered may be considered an accommodation under certain circumstances and a modification under others. For example, having a test read aloud may be considered an accommodation on a math test, but a modification on a reading test. The criteria for determining if a change in procedure is a modification or an accommodation depends upon whether the change is believed to significantly alter what is being measured.
On the standardized test survey question, when respondents selected "Student participated in the testing program with modification," they were directed to fill out a subsequent question that provided a list of several accommodations, some of which could be considered modifications, and one definite modification (i.e.,
shortened test). Only 1.9% of students received the shortened test modification. The bar graph showing modifications to standardized tests in Figure 7, however, is stacked with test changes that are most often considered modifications under certain circumstances (i.e., read aloud and dictated response) in order to show possible alternative percentages of students receiving modified standardized tests. Given the lack of clarity in the data, inferences based on modified test data should be tentative and limited.
Figure 7 suggests that test modification may have been fairly common practice for students with disabilities across the three conditions depending upon what was considered a modification or an accommodation.
Figure 7. Modified Tests: Disabilities Combined
SEM: IEP/504 = 1.8, Class = 1.8, Test = 0.6 (Read Aloud = 2.1; Dictated Response = 1.1)
Modified by Disability Group. Modifying tests in class compared proportionally consistent with IEP/504 Plan stipulations (see Figure 8). Additionally, this accommodation was provided in similar proportions to students with learning disability, mental retardation, and emotional disturbance, with somewhat fewer students with speech/language impairment receiving it per IEP/504 Plan stipulations and reported in-class use (LD: IEP/504 = 41.6%, Class = 50.2%; MR: IEP/504 = 53.0%, Class = 54.7%; ED: IEP/504 = 39.6%, Class = 48.0%; SI: IEP/504 = 29.5%, Class = 27.1%).
Figure 8. Modified Test
Figure 9. Modified Standardized Test
*SEM – LD: IEP/504 = 3.0, Class = 3.1, Test = 0.9; MR: IEP/504 = 3.0, Class = 3.1, Test = 2.2; SI: IEP/504 = 4.6, Class = 3.9, Test = 0.0; ED: IEP/504 = 3.4, Class = 3.8, Test = *
As shown on Figure 9, students with mental retardation were the most likely to have standardized tests shortened, followed by students with learning disability (MR: Test = 7.5%, LD: Test = 2.0%). Zero students with speech/language impairment received shortened standardized test modifications, and too few students with emotional disturbance received it on standardized tests to provide an accurate estimate of proportional use. Although the use of dictated response was fairly consistent across disability groups, having standardized tests read aloud varied considerably.
Modified Test Discussion. The modification of tests appears to be fairly common practice in language arts class. It is unclear, however, how frequently it occurs on standardized tests due to our lack of information on what was considered a modification and what was considered an accommodation by those surveyed.
Alternate Test by Condition. Comparable percentages of students with disabilities had IEP/504 Plans that stipulated alternate assessments and took alternate assessments in class (IEP/504 = 28.8%, Class = 30.9%; see Figure 10). The proportion who took alternate tests rather than standardized tests was considerably smaller (Test = 14.1%).
Figure 10. Alternate Test: Disabilities Combined
SEM: IEP/504 = 1.6, Class = 1.7, Test = 1.2
Alternate Test by Disability Group. In all disability groups there was considerable discrepancy between the provision of alternate assessments in place of standardized tests and what was both stipulated on IEP/504 Plans and given in the classroom (see Figure 11). Students with mental retardation were most frequently provided with alternate assessments. Approximately 50% of students with mental retardation had alternate assessments stipulated on IEP/504 Plans and provided in language arts classes. Conversely, students with speech/language impairment were least likely to receive this accommodation in class or on their IEP/504 Plan stipulations (approximately 20%). Across disability groups, fewer students received alternate assessments in place of standardized tests, with frequencies ranging from approximately 34% for students with mental retardation to as few as 4.7% of students with speech and language impairment.
Figure 11. Alternate Test: Separated by Disability
SEM – LD: IEP/504 = 2.6, Class = 2.8, Test = 1.9; MR: IEP/504 = 3.0, Class = 3.1, Test = 2.8; SI: IEP/504 = 4.0, Class = 3.6, Test = 2.8; ED: IEP/504 = 3.0, Class = 3.6, Test = 2.0.
Alternate Test Discussion. In all conditions, the stipulation and provision of alternate tests appears to be high, and alternate tests in class may vary considerably in terms of the extent to which they deviate from typical in-class assessments. To comply with NCLB requirements, at most, only 2% of students with persistent academic difficulty should be scored as proficient on an alternate test in place of the state/district standardized test (U.S. Department of Education: Raising Achievement-Alternate Assessments for Students with Disabilities, ¶ 2).
Summary and Discussion of Accommodations, Modification, and Alternate Testing
Patterns of accommodation use emerged when looking across accommodations discussed in this report. With the exception of setting accommodations, all accommodations tend to appear more often on IEP/504 Plans and to be provided in the classroom, than were provided on standardized tests. Setting accommodations, on the other hand were more often provided on standardized tests. Additionally, for most accommodations, there appeared to be proportional consistency between the accommodations documented on IEPs and 504 Plans and in-class use of these. Note, however, that it is not clear from the SEELS data tables whether the relative proportion of students receiving accommodations under each condition were the same students, only that the proportions (or percentages) appeared similar.
As with general observations about accommodations, certain consistencies appeared when examining accommodations for students within specific disability categories. Students with learning disability and emotional disturbance tended to have similar patterns of discrepancy across conditions and similar rates of accommodation use overall. Accommodation use for students with speech/language impairment and mental retardation, on the other hand, tended to vary more. In terms of alternate assessments, students with speech/language impairment were the least likely to have received alternate assessments. Although students with speech/language impairment were also least likely to have received extended time and a read aloud accommodation, they had the greatest discrepancy of use across conditions (i.e., they were more likely to receive these accommodations in class than on standardized tests). Students with speech/language impairment, however, were the only group that received setting accommodations consistently across contexts. Students with mental retardation received extended time and a read aloud accommodation with the greatest consistency. On the other hand, students with mental retardation received setting accommodations with the least consistency (i.e., they received setting accommodations far more frequently on standardized tests than was stated on the IEP or 504 Plan or provided in class).
According to most state accommodation policies (see Clapper, Morse, Lazarus, Thompson, & Thurlow, 2005), accommodations provided on standardized tests should be the same or similar to those given on IEP/504 Plans and provided in class. Available data consists of proportions or percentages of groups receiving accommodations. It is assumed that, to the greatest extent possible, the students with accommodations identified on IEP/504 Plans were the same students receiving accommodations in class and on standard tests. Determining the extent of consistency across conditions for individual students will be an important issue to explore. Additionally, some students that fall into specific disability categories had considerable proportional discrepancies in accommodation provision across conditions. For example, for students with learning disability and speech/language impairment, there was an approximate 25% to 30% proportional discrepancy in the provision of extended time between the classroom and standardized testing, with students receiving extended time more often in the classroom. The lack of consistency suggests the need for greater attention to providing accommodations consistently across conditions.
The assumption that the accommodations students receive on large-scale standardized assessments should be reflected in what they receive when they take classroom assessments, and that both should be evident on students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or 504 accommodation plans, is virtually common knowledge at this point. To ensure that IEP teams and individuals or teams who put together 504 plans apply this "common knowledge," almost every state has a policy or guideline that specifically states that accommodations used in state testing must be ones used for instruction (Lazarus, Thurlow, Lail, Eisenbraun, & Kato, 2006). Turning state policy into practice is challenging and not made easy when states have not taken their policy to the local level via training. Langley and Olsen (2003) found that nearly one-third of a sample of states provided no training on accommodations at all, and another third focused only on assessment accommodations.
The SEELS findings document on a nationally representative sample what has been found in a couple of studies at more local levels. These studies alerted us to the potential issue of lack of alignment between IEP/504 plans and what happened during instruction/classroom assessments, and what happened during state standardized assessments. For example, Shriner and DeStefano (2003) documented that the accommodations selected by highly trained IEP teams, who made decisions about needed accommodations for individual students based on their training, often did not end up being implemented on the day of testing. Shriner and DeStefano also found that some accommodations that were not identified for a particular student were given to that student. Research by the Paul Sherlock Center (2002) revealed also that the students testing location seemed to be more important than what the IEP said in determining what the student received on the day of the state test. Thus, if one student at a location needed the test read to him or her, then all students in that location received the test read aloud.
Having a nationally representative sample provides much larger numbers, which allow us to look in more detail at the extent of the problem and at some of the interactions. The SEELs data have suggested that there is some variability in what happens for students with different categorical labels. It will be important to monitor this. The current SEELS data, from Wave 2, are from a relatively early administration of the study. Obtaining similar information from a later administration of the assessment will be informative, especially as local districts, and IEP teams or 504 accommodation plan developers become accustomed to making decisions and providing accommodations during, not only classroom assessments, but also standardized testing, and determine if there is change in state practices.
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