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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Accommodations Assessment - Topic 9

What is it?

The terms used to describe changes made to improve access and meaningful interface with educational assessment for students with disabilities have been widely misunderstood, and are confusing for both educators and parents.  Accommodations for assessments are changes in test-taking environments or materials that do not result in changes to the content of the assessment.  Since changes to testing materials can be made without making the test easier (like using Braille, or large-print text) the term “assessment accommodation” can be said to represent changes to the assessment materials or procedures that do not alter the validity of the testing result.  

Assessment modifications, on the other hand, are changes to the materials or procedures end up producing invalid test scores.  These changes would make the test easier to take for typical students as well as for those with disabilities (an example of this would be to read a section of a test aloud to a student).  Despite the differences in these two terms, the word “accommodation” is still used in policy standards as a general term referring to both.

Why is it important?

Researchers have tried to facilitate decision-making about the validity of assessment modification/accommodation procedures by examining differences between students with and without disabilities. Using this measurement, the degree to which a modification offers a differential boost is calculated, to determine if the advantage it would offer a typical student is offset by the differentially larger benefit to the student with a disability.  Universally designed assessments are another way that researchers are currently seeking to make assessment materials meaningful for the broadest possible range of students while preserving the usefulness of the score standard.


Cook, B.G. & Tankersly, M. (2013).  Accommodations for Assessment.   In A. Davis (Ed), Research

Based Practices in Special Education (pp.311-327).  Boston: Pearson.

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