Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of
2001, all public school students must participate in annual
testing in academic areas outlined in the law. According to NCLB,
students with disabilities who have educational handicapping conditions,
are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and must be
provided with appropriate accommodations necessary to participate
in these tests.
This provision of the federal law has specific value
for children who not only have an educational handicapping condition,
but also have "atypical" educational background being
internationally adopted pos-institutionalized children. For those
of them who were adopted at the school age (6 years and older),
test taking is a culturally unknown territory: there was no such
phenomenon in their native country. In this domain they compete
with peers who grew up taking tests practically from kindergarten.
Along with test accommodations, they have to be specifically taught
how to perform, feel, and think during test taking activities. Even
some children who were adopted as infants and toddlers and entered
our school system at the appropriate age, these children along with
educational disabilities may have elevated performance-related anxiety,
limited self-regulation of goal-directed behavior, minimal tolerance
to frustration in academic activities, and low self-esteem. The
emotional component of their learning disabilities is particularly
evident during test taking activities and is to be addressed by
the appropriate testing accommodations.
Determination of the appropriate accommodations, which
students with disabilities need in order to fully and equally participate
in state-wide testing, is an important component of these students'
Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or Sections 504 Plan.
Accommodations are the procedures, which provide equal
access to testing for students with disabilities. They are provided
to "level the playing field." Without accommodations,
students with disabilities may not be able to participate fully
in tests. Accommodations can be divided into four categories:
- Presentation (e.g.:
repeating the directions, reading aloud, using answer sheets).
Presentation accommodations 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
- Response (e.g.: marking answers in the book,
using reference aids, pointing, using computer). Response accommodations
allow students to complete activities, assignments and tests in
different ways to solve or organize problems using some type of
assistive device or organizer.
- Timing/Scheduling (e.g.: extended time,
frequent breaks). Timing/scheduling accommodations increase the
allowable length of time to complete a test or assignment and
may also change the way the time is organized.
- Setting (e.g.: study carrel, special lighting,
separate room). Setting Accommodations change the location in
which a test or assignment is given or the conditions of the assessment
Please note that accommodations are not the
same as modifications. Accommodations are intended to lessen
the effects of a student's disability; they are not intended to
reduce learning expectations. Changing, lowering or reducing
learning expectations is usually referred to as modification or
alteration. There is also a difference between <b> testing
accommodations and instructional accommodations</b> (individualized
instructions are a separate topic of discussion).
Here is an example of tests' modification that
I recommended for a child who was diagnosed with ADHD:
Policies regarding testing accommodations vary
by state; therefore, all IEP/504 team members need to be familiar
with state's testing and state's accommodations guidelines. These
guidelines should include information on whether accommodations are
considered "standard" or "non-standard" procedures
and if they may invalidate test scores.
1. Extended (possibly doubled) time is necessary
to K. for test taking
2. K. will benefit from separate location/small
group setting for test taking.
3. Test questions have to be
read aloud to K. (math testing only).
4. Test instructions
should be read and re-read for K. (both math and ELA).
Ms. Candace Cortiella, Director of the The
Advocacy Institute, in her online article No
Child Left Behind: Determining Appropriate Assessment Accommodations
for Students with Disabilities, provides the following guide
in choosing accommodations for students with educational disabilities:
Who can benefit
Questions to ask
with print disabilities, defined as difficulty or inability
to visually read standard print because of a physical, sensory
or cognitive disability.
- Can the student read and understand directions?
- Does the student need directions repeated
- Has the student been identified as having
a reading disability?
- Large Print
- Magnification Devices
- Human Reader
- Audio Tapes
- Screen Reader
- Talking Materials (calculators; clocks, timers)
|Students with physical,
sensory or learning disabilities (including difficulties with
memory, sequencing, directionality, alignment and organization).
- Can the student use a pencil or other writing
- Does the student have a disability that affects
his ability to spell?
- Does the student have trouble with tracking
from one page to another and maintaining her place?
- Tape Recorder
- Respond on Test Booklet
- Spelling and Grammar devices
- Graphic Organizers
Timing & scheduling accommodations
who need more time, cannot concentrate for extended periods,
have health-related disabilities, fatigue easily, special diet
and/or medication needs.
- Can student work continuously during the
entire time allocated for test administration?
- Does student tire easily because of health
- Does student need shorter working periods
and frequent breaks
- Extended time
- Frequent Breaks
- Multiple testing sessions
who are easily distracted in large group settings, concentrate
best in small groups.
- Do others easily distract the student?
- Does student have trouble staying on task?
- Does student exhibit behaviors that would
disrupt other students?
- Change of room or location in room
- Earphone or headphones
- Study carrels
Testing accommodations must not lead to inappropriate
testing practices such as coaching students during testing, editing
student's work, allowing a student to answer fewer questions, giving
clues to test answers in any way, reducing the number of responses
required, changing the content by paraphrasing or offering additional
Please note: there are certain individual accommodations
for instruction that just cannot be used for testing. If your child
gets accustomed to using such accommodations, the IEP team needs
to make certain that the child understands that a particular accommodation
won't be available during testing; the team needs to find acceptable
accommodations that can support the student during testing in a
Your child's IEP or 504 Plan should contain documentation
for all accommodations that have been selected, both for instruction
and testing. Once documented in the IEP or 504 Plan, accommodations
must be provided: they become mandatory, not optional. Be sure your
child understands, is willing to use, and uses the accommodations
available to him/her during testing.
And the last but not the least: test accommodations
are only as effective as their proper implementation. Unfortunately,
administering individual student's accommodations can become difficult
on testing days, when school staff is stretched. Advance planning
for all accommodations, such as quiet space, readers, and alternative
formats of tests is critical to their ethical administration.