Accommodations and Modifications for Classroom Teachers

For purposes of clarification of the terms “accommodations” and “modifications” used throughout this website, modifications usually change the teacher’s expectations for an individual student’s work. For example, if a math paper assigned to the general education math class contained 20 multiplication problems, the student with disabilities might be expected to complete 10 correctly rather than the entire 20 as a modification. The student is still learning the same curriculum but with fewer problems. Accommodations on the other hand, are ways that allow the student to meet the same standards but in a different way. An example might be a student with disabilities in the area of math who is allowed to use a calculator or computer to complete their math assignment rather than having to memorize the multiplication facts from a table. The student with this type of disability could be provided the opportunity to take a test orally or allowed to type out answers using a computer; however, he/she would be required to complete the exact same test that is given his/her peers in the general education classroom.

The following excerpts from a book entitled Assessment of Children and Youth with Special Needs written by Cohen & Spenciner (2007) has also been provided for the reader.

"...Accommodations are changes to the education program and assessment procedures and materials that do not substantially alter the instruction level, the content of the curriculum or the assessment criteria. An accommodation for a writing assessment, for example, might consist of changes in the format of materials, such as using a laptop computer instead of paper and pencil. Accommodations also include changes to the classroom arrangement, scheduling or timing; for example giving a student extra time to complete the assessment. On the other hand, modifications refer to changes or adaptations made to the educational program(s) or assessment(s) that alter the level, content, and/or assessment criteria, For example, a modification to an assessment might include reading a condensed version of the paragraph or completing half of the assessment items." (Cohen & Spenciner (2007), p. 4)

"The purpose of making accommodations and modifications is to reduce the impact that certain student characteristics, such as distractibility or short-term memory deficits have on test performance. Accommodations and modifications should respond to the needs of the student and test administrators should document and describe them in the testing report. Although two students may have the same disability, such as a learning disability, the accommodations and modifications each student may need can differ. When the IEP team determines that a student needs an accommodation or modification, this is written into the student's individualized education program (IEP). When a student receives accommodations or modifications during the instruction program, the student also is eligible to receive similar accommodations or modifications during assessments. However, even when the IEP team recommends an accommodation or a modification, not all accommodations or modifications are permitted on state assessments. Each state develops a state list of acceptable accommodations allowable and these vary from state to state." (Cohen & Spenciner (2007), p. 5)

Cohen, L.G. & Spenciner, L.J.  (2007.) Assessment of children and youth with special needs, 3rd ed. Boston MA, Pearson Allyn and Bacon.