Student Assessment Support

Modifications and Accommodations: Special Education Students

Best Practices

As elementary educators it is our job to see that all of our students achieve their potential, and demonstrate this accomplishment through assessment. With assessments reflecting the challenging educational standards of the Common Core, it is our task to see that our assessment practices are tailored and individualized so that our special education students are demonstrating what they know and are able to do. In order to do this we use accommodations and modifications. Accommodations in assessment are supports or services that provide students an equal opportunity to demonstrate what they know. They do not change what they student is expected to know, modifications do this. Modifications of assessments change the content, either the degree or level of understanding. Modifications in assessment reflect a change that has been made in the content and performance expectations for what a student should know and be able to do. The expectation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is that educators will accommodate the needs of all students, this includes "the development and provision of alternate assessments that are valid and reliable for assessing the performance of children with disabilities..." [IDEA 300.704(b)(1)]
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Accommodation: Timing and Scheduling

Schedule assessments during a time that is favorable to the student. Some students work better during different parts of the school day. In addition, a student may need to take frequent breaks during the assessment. Allow the student to finish the assessment on a different day, or at a different time if you notice frustration.
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Modifications: Timing and Scheduling

Assessments may need to be untimed for special education students allowing multiple opportunities to complete the assessment. Students may reach mastery at a different time than general education students, therefor assessments will have to be scheduled at a different time.

Critical Issues

It is important to keep in mind that accommodations and modifications are intended to help the student learn, and to demonstrate what they have learned. For special education students it is imperative that the accommodations and modifications align to their Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals and objectives. In no way should accommodations and modifications lessen what a student should know and be able to do. Both should be used appropriately.


Creating a legacy: IDEA 2004. (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2016, from

Strom, E. (2013, December 20). The difference between accommodations and modifications. Retrieved May 1, 2016, from

Kessler, Esq., Eve. (n.d.) Examples of Accommodations & Modifications. Retrieved April 29, 2016 from

Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students (2010). Retrieved May 1, 2016 from

Taylor, C. S., & Nolen, S. B. (2008). Classroom assessment: Supporting teaching and learning in real classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Teaching All Students: Staff Guide to Accommodations and Modifications (2006). (PDF) Retrieved from