FORGOT YOUR DETAILS? Testing Accommodations on High Stakes Tests: Who are they for and what is their purpose

by / Monday, 09 August 2021 / Published in ADHD, disability, Dyslexia, education, Latest News, Learning Disorders
Testing Accommodations on High Stakes Tests: Who are they for and what is their purpose
Table of Contents
I. What is a disability and how is a disability determined?
II. What is the purpose of accommodations?
III. What is an appropriate accommodation?
IV. The problem of unnecessary accommodations
V. References
There has been increasing awareness over the last couple of decades of the importance of
providing students with disabilities better access to education to enhance their learning and
long-term occupational success and independence. It is now widely recognized that many
students with disabilities require alterations to the physical layout of schools, such as ramps for
students requiring wheelchairs, or modified educational materials and tests, such as books in
Braille for students who are blind. These accommodations for mobility or sensory impairments
are reasonably straightforward and are generally viewed as providing fair access, as required by
law. However, students with less obvious disabilities, such as those that impact learning,
cognitive, behavioral, and psychiatric functioning, often also have barriers to accessing
education. For example, a student with severe dyslexia may require an audio version of a
textbook in order to access the information needed to participate and learn at a comparable
level to peers. Or a student with fine motor impairment may need to use a laptop to take notes.
Students with disabilities may require these accommodations both in the classroom and when
taking tests, especially high stakes tests such as the SAT and ACT.
Unfortunately, with increased pressure for students to do well on high stakes tests, as well as
heightened media coverage, misinformation about eligibility and appropriateness of
accommodations has spread. This is of particular concern because the manner in which these
accommodations are sought after and determined is not standardized. Further, there are
differing interpretations of the laws and significant discussions around issues such as
determining who has a disability, who should qualify for accommodations, what documentation
should be necessary, what constitutes a “functional limitation,” and which accommodations
render an assessment invalid. There are also economic considerations, as private diagnostic
evaluations can be costly and are often not covered by insurance if they are for educational
purposes. This adds an additional disadvantage to those who have disabilities and are of low
socioeconomic status as they are less likely to receive a comprehensive evaluation that
demonstrates their disability and need for accommodations. In this paper, we aim to answer
some of these questions and clarify the laws and the general philosophy underlying testing

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