Special Education and PPS Services

Monthly Newsletter - Volume 6 - March

PARCC and MCAS will soon be upon us - Understanding Accommodations

What are accommodations, and who is eligible to receive them?

It is important to ensure that performance in the classroom and on the assessment is influenced as little as possible by a student’s disability or linguistic/cultural characteristics that are unrelated to the content being assessed.

For PARCC assessments, accommodations are adjustments to the testing situation, test format, or test administration that provide equitable access during assessments for students with disabilities, students who are English learners, and students with disabilities who are also English learners.

To the extent possible, accommodations:
 Provide equitable access during instruction and assessments;
 Mitigate the effects of a student’s disability;
 Do not reduce learning or achievement expectations;
 Do not change the construct being assessed; and
 Do not compromise the integrity or validity of the assessment; and
 Should already be familiar to the student.

Accommodations are intended to reduce or even eliminate the effects of a student’s disability and/or English language proficiency level; however, accommodations do not reduce learning expectations.

To the extent possible, accommodations adhere to the following principles:

  • Accommodations enable students to participate more fully in instruction and assessments and to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
  • Accommodations selection should be based upon individual student needs and not upon a category of disability, English language proficiency alone, level of instruction, amount of time spent in a general classroom, program setting, or availability of staff.
  • Accommodations should be based on a documented need in the instruction/assessment setting and should not be provided for the purpose of giving the student an enhancement that could be viewed as an unfair advantage.
  • Accommodations for students with disabilities should be described and documented in the student’s appropriate plan (i.e., either the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan).
  • Accommodations for English learners should be described and documented in writing.
  • Students who are both English learners and students with disabilities may qualify for students with disabilities and English learner accommodations, and should have all accommodations listed in an IEP/Section 504 plan and other documentation deemed appropriate.
  • Accommodations should be implemented during daily instruction as soon as possible after completion and/or approval of the appropriate plan.
  • Accommodations should not be introduced for the first time during the testing of a student.
  • Accommodations should be monitored for effectiveness.
  • Accommodations used for instruction should also be used, if allowable, on district and state assessments.
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Who selects accommodations and accessibility features for students?

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

IEP and Section 504 plan team members are responsible for selecting accommodations for both instruction and assessment. To ensure that students with disabilities are engaged in standards-based instruction and assessments, all IEP/504 team members should be knowledgeable about the Common Core State Standards, the PARCC assessments, and the school district’s aligned curricula.

Effective decision-making on the provision of appropriate accommodations begins with gathering and reviewing information about the student’s present level of academic achievement, functional performance in relation to the CCSS and the supports the student requires during instruction and classroom assessment. The selection of accommodations is intended to “level the playing field” for a student with a disability so that he or she can participate more equitably in the general education curriculum and the PARCC assessments. Team meetings should include discussions about providing the student with equal learning opportunities, and identifying practices and approaches intended to help the student overcome learning obstacles during instruction and assessment.

The first edition of the PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual outlines accommodations that, when used appropriately during the PARCC assessments, will result in a more valid and reliable score. For more detailed information, please see Section 5 of the manual.

Accommodations for English Learners
Decisions about testing accommodations for English learners should be made by a group of individuals in a school/district (e.g., in some states, an English learner team) who are familiar with the student and his or her language needs in the classroom. These decisions should be based on the student’s individual needs and English proficiency level. These educators are responsible for documenting accommodations decisions for the student in writing.

Determining appropriate linguistic support for English learners during routine classroom instruction and assessment is facilitated by gathering and reviewing information about the student and the student’s level of performance in relation to district and state academic standards. The process of determining the amount and types of instructional and assessment support involves attempts by local educators to “level the playing field” for the student so he or she can participate in the general education curriculum and assessments.

Effective decision-making regarding the provision of appropriate test accommodations for an English learner student by the team of educators begins well before the day of the assessment. Once eligibility for accommodations has been established, the selection of accommodations should be based on the guidance provided in Section 5 of the manual.

Accommodations for English Learners with Disabilities
Students classified as English learners who also have a disability are eligible to receive both English learner accommodations and accommodations for students with disabilities on the PARCC assessments. The IEP or 504 plan team should collaborate with school English learner (i.e., language) staff and evaluation professionals to determine the English language development needs of an English learner with an identified disability. An English learner with a disability that affects his/her language acquisition may need support from staff who provide both language services and special education.

Accessibility Features for All Participating Students
In order to individualize the testing experience, and enhance access to the PARCC assessments for all students, each student’s testing needs will be included in a Personal Needs Profile (PNP) embedded within the technology platform. The PNP also includes the student’s demographic information, the pre-selected accessibility features that are needed, and accommodations (if needed).

The PNP should be based on observations and stated preferences by the student or parent/guardian on a student’s testing needs that have been found to increase access during instruction and assessment. Observations based on a student’s interaction with the online testing platform can be made through the practice tests. A student’s testing needs should be reviewed at least annually, and revised as appropriate, to reflect current education-related needs or preferences.

It is very important to review the manual and discuss with the students team to ensure proper accommodations are provided.

Test Taking Strategies for Special Education Students By Jerry Webster

Get comfortable: Test taking days are great days to relax dress standards. If your school has a uniform, you might try to convince the principal to relax the dress code and permit kids to wear their own clothing. You might even try a “pajama party” day so kids can come dressed really comfortably.


Start comfortable: Familiarize your students with standardized testing formats. There are lots of test preparation books you can use to familiarize your students. Get material at your student’s average reading level, so they are comfortable with the format and can succeed at their reading level. There may even be a preparation book for your state.

Teach Test Taking Strategies.


Process of elimination. Show your students how to eliminate the answers that are clearly wrong, and go back and check for the correct answer.


Underlining important information. Check your state rules, but usually a child can underline important information in the reading selections.

This does not come naturally to children with specific learning disabilities. You need to spend a lot of time teaching this ahead of time. What is important? Why?

SQ3R. A classic reading comprehension strategy, it works well for test taking.

  • S for Skim. Teach your students to look for underlined headings, for words in italics or bold face, to read the first sentences of paragraphs.
  • Q for Question: Model asking questions about the text. What was the selection about? Say it is about sailing. What makes the sailboat go? Who are famous sailors? Whatever . . .
  • First R – Read..
  • Second R - Review This is a good time to answer your questions.
  • Third R - Re-read.

Do the Easy Ones First. Teach your students to look through the items that they find easiest first. Do be sure they are filling the ovals correctly. This gives them more time to do the more difficult ones.


Mask the Test. Show the students how to cover one column with a paper so they are not overwhelmed by the amount of text, or so they can focus on the important stuff. You may also cut a window in a paper or file folder so the student can move the mask from question to question. A mask would also work well for students whose eyes wander and need help filling in the correct test bubbles.

Test Taking Strategies for students- By Melissa Kelly

Tip #1: Bring everything you'll need to class with you. There's nothing worse than being unprepared and spending your time searching for a pen or pencil.


Tip #2: Listen to and read directions carefully. Make sure that no last minute changes have been announced. Many questions are missed because of lack of attention to directions. Make sure to look for words like "never" and "always."


Tip #3: Once you get your test, take a minute to budget your time. Spend more time on questions that are worth more points. Do not spend too much time on any one question before you've gone all the way through the test.


Tip #4: Some people find it easier to go through the test quickly answering the easy questions first.


Tip #5: Mark up your test. Place stars next to questions you are unsure of. Cross out answers you know are not correct. Write notes to yourself to help jog your memory.


Tip #6: If you are not penalized for guessing, then guess on all the questions you are unsure of. Choose a system for guessing. For example, always answer B for guesses unless you know for sure that B is incorrect.


Tip #7:Think long and hard before changing answers. Often your first instinct is correct. Only change them if you know you are wrong. Take your time as you go through the test until you are out of time.

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