Accommodations vs. Modifications – What is the difference?

IMG_3433 smallJennifer Parsons, MS/CCC-SLP, Program Manager GiGi’s Playhouse Quad Cities

It is that dreaded time of the year again… ASSESSMENT TIME!

Legislation in most states require all students be tested at least once a year, if not more often. Therefore, testing accommodations and modifications must frequently be made to meet student needs. But sometimes it is difficult to tell, is this an accommodation or a modification? Here is a short break down to help us understand!

Accommodations: this is an adjustment to an activity or setting that removed a barrier presented by disability, so students may have equal access to the same opportunities available to student without a disability. These are typically listed in the IEP (Individual Education Plan) or 504 plan. There is NO LIMIT to the range of accommodation to list on an IEP. Accommodations create changes in environment or administration of testing, but not the content of instruction. An educator is legally bound to provide them, because they allow equal access.

Here are some common Accommodations for testing:

  • Extra time to complete test
  • Read test directions aloud.
  • Repeat test directions as needed.
  • Ask student to repeat directions in his or her own words.
  • Have student highlight key words in the directions and/or questions.
  • Allow the student to take the test in a small group setting.
  • Allow the student to take the test individually.
  • Allow student to mark his/her answers directly on the test.
  • Provide frequent breaks.
  • Break up testing into several sessions.
  • Read specific part of the test to the student.
  • Allow the student to answer orally instead of writing the answers.

Modifications: also known as alterations, can be made to the test, curriculum or homework. This happens when either the content or the way it is administered is altered.

Here are some common Modifications for the classroom:

  • Complete fewer or different homework problems than peers
  • Write shorter papers
  • Answer fewer or different test questions
  • Create alternate projects or assignments
  • Learn different material (such as continuing to work on multiplication while classmates move on to fractions)
  • Get graded or assessed using a different standard than the one for classmates
  • Be excused from particular projects

It is best practice that any accommodation or modification in testing be consistently followed in the classroom on a daily basis and it is important that we do not over accommodate our students.

I hope this information clears up some lingering questions on accommodations and modifications. There is a ton of information online, so please look around. My advice is that you make sure that you look in your specific state. Some states are different than others!

Until next month my amazing friends!

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