For individuals with disabilities, accommodations make the difference between access to opportunities and being shut out of those opportunities. Accommodations, while vital, vary from individual to individual and depend on many different factors. Join the Bridges Helpdesk as we explore understanding, identifying, and advocating for accommodations in the area of assessments, including quizzes and tests, state-required tests, and tests required for college admission and for earning college credit.
Join us as we explore blind/low vision-related accommodations, from definition through their application on high-stakes tests.
- April 5: Accommodations versus Modifications
- April 12: Categories of Assessment Accommodations
- April 19: Importance of Using Assessment Accommodations Consistently
- April 26: Guides to Testing Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students in Maryland
In this third installment of our “Assessment Accommodations April” series, we discuss why it is important to use accommodations regularly.
Content is Key
Most assessments, from pop quizzes in class to the highest of high-stakes tests, are used to measure one’s grasp of content. In all cases, performance on assessments should relate to an individual’s knowledge of the content area. Assessments should NOT be measuring other factors, such as the individual’s familiarity with the testing platform or method used.
Use Accommodations Early and Often
By identifying needed accommodations and using them often, you will get familiar with their use. This can be especially true for electronic assessments because you don’t want to be struggling to understand the technology during your assessment. The more comfortable you are with the test’s format, the more likely your score will reflect your actual knowledge level.
Advocacy for Full-time Accommodations
Your school should make sure that you have many opportunities to use whatever testing accommodations you need, such as screen reading/magnifying software, QWERTY/six-key entry keyboards, tactile graphics, allowable online accessible calculators, etc. Even pop quizzes and regular classroom tests should be provided using the accommodations spelled out in your IEP.
In fact, both Maryland and federal law require that IEP documents specifically identify all accommodations you need on all state-wide and district-wide assessments. See COMAR 3A.05.01.09.A(1)(f) and 34 CFR §300.320(a)(6)(i). Additionally, the Maryland State Department of Education directs that: “The accommodations provided to a student must be the same for classroom instruction, classroom assessments, and district and State assessments. The administration of an assessment should not be the first time the accommodation is introduced to the student.” See Maryland Assessment, Accessibility, & Accommodations Policy Manual, page 2-2 (eighteenth page of the PDF document).
If You Don’t Use It, You Might Lose It
Using accommodations helps you become familiar with them, but that’s not all. If you do not use an accommodation, it may appear that you do not NEED the accommodation at all. Regular use of an accommodation is important to preserve your right to that accommodation – at school, on high-stakes tests, in college, and at work.
Of course, there may be some accommodations that you don’t need all the time. For example, you might not need frequent breaks when taking quizzes or tests during a class period. However, for extremely long tests (tests that take several hours each, perhaps two or three of them in a day), you might need frequent breaks and/or extended time. Also, you might need different amounts of time depending on the content (English versus math) or depending on the kinds of questions (multiple-choice, short-answer, etc.). If you find that your need for accommodations changes depending on the type or format of the test, it’s important to document that.
Reach Out to the Bridges Helpdesk
If you are unsure about what accommodations you have or need or how to advocate to your IEP team to document them, contact us. If you want to discuss these matters, including how to develop your own “Reasonable Accommodations Request,” reach out to us. We are ready, willing, able, and eager to help!
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This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.