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Do We Over Accommodate?
Teachers Debate Accommodations & Modifications

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Position #1

Accommodations and Modifications Train Students to Under Perform

I teach at a charter school.

We care about the kids and go the extra mile for those who have special needs. We have high expectations and good strategies.teacher and student at blackboard

Here is the problem. We're asked by the Special Education Director to modify lessons and tests to accommodate some low performing students.

Well, we feel that if the students would do their homework and classwork, they would have no trouble passing tests.

Because their homes do not support homework completion, we have to modify tests to accommodate them.

We are over accommodating. We want our kids to achieve and have good work habits.

When we modify and accommodate, we train them to under perform.

Position #2

Of Course a Teacher Must Accommodate

I am a classroom teacher, tutor and advocate.

Of course a teacher must accommodate.

Let me point out that the Department of Education regulations specifically require differentiation. Many schools have adopted differentiation as their official policy; moreover, the school system asserts that all children have the right to an education that will allow them to succeed to the fullest extent of their potential.

I agree completely with Pat Howey. She was right to point out that if teachers differentiated instruction to meet individual student needs, there might not be a need for special education.

Read how Pat responded to a regular education teacher who asked, Why Must I Make Modifications for a Child? It Seems Unfair to Other Children.

Moreover, many disabilities go undetected for years. Some are buried under the weight of parental denial.

Others are hidden by state policies that make it difficult for educational psychologists to attach a diagnosis to an individual, not because the symptoms are absent, but because the student hasn't demonstrated a threshold level of failure. I saw such cases with astonishing regularity and continue to see them.

  • Should a teacher modify instruction to meet individual needs?
  • Does each child have a right to achieve successful literacy and mathematical competency?
  • Does every teacher bear the burden of ensuring that no child is left behind?

A Resounding Yes

The ethical answer to all three questions must be a resounding yes.

It is well established that the earlier the intervention, the more effective it can be.

The work of the National Reading Panel shows just how easy it can be for teachers to remediate students at-risk for reading failure.

Simple techniques can be used to address fluency issues. Techniques like readers theater, poetry readings, Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies Reading and buddy reading to a younger student can all lead to reading success.

It does not take a rocket scientist to promote reading achievement among all learners. Making "Mosaic of Thought" required reading for all teachers would be an excellent start.

Research from New Zealand is pointing the way for math remediation, and no, it does not take a rocket scientist to implement the research-based strategies from Down Under.

It is up to all teachers to meet the learning needs of all students in their classrooms. The challenge of an education in a democracy is to educate democratically, in a way that reaches all learners, regardless of presumed potential, neurological make-up, cultural heritage or income level.

Pam Wright Joins the Debate

I'm not sure why some teachers believe that differentiating instruction to help a child learn is somehow "unfair" to other kids who don't need that particular assistance.

We receive emails from teachers in both camps.

There is confusion about the differences between accommodations and modifications. The terms are often used interchangeably - they are quite different.

Accommodations Level the Playing Field

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with accommodations.

  • When may a child have accommodations?
  • What accommodations are appropriate?
  • Must a teacher always provide accommodations?
  • Are there circumstances when providing accommodations that may lead to problems?

Accommodations are intended to level the playing field for people with disabilities. Assume you are blind and read Braille. It is likely to take longer for you to complete a test or reading assignment than a person with good vision.

When people with disabilities do not receive accommodations, the tests they take often measure the impact of their disabilities, not what they know.

If the purpose of the test is to determine what you know, giving you more time to complete the test is a reasonable accommodation.

The same goes for people who have language learning disabilities like dyslexia.

If you have cerebral palsy or another condition that causes problems with fine motor skills, you probably won't be able to fill in the little bubbles on a test sheet so you may need a computer version of the test.

Pete Wright Answers a Teacher's Questions About Accommodations

Teaching Skills v. Modifications and Accommodations

"If an accommodation or modification is marked on the child's IEP, is the regular ed teacher required to include the accommodation or modification on every test or activity? What about calculators - can the teacher make an assignment where students are not allowed to use calculators?"

Read Pete's answer to this teacher - and learn his "big gripe" about special education in Must Teachers Provide Accommodations & Modifications in the Child's IEP?

He explains the purpose of testing is to find out what the child has learned and discusses teaching skills v. providing accommodations and modifications.

Suppose a child studying history has dysgraphia (learning disability in writing). Will an essay test measure a child's knowledge of history? Or will an essay test measure the child's disability (inability to write)? In this case, an appropriate modification may be to allow the child to write answers using a computer.

Read this article to find out what Pete says about the use of calculators.

More Articles About Accommodations and Modifications

Accommodations and Modifications is a 4-page article that defines accommodations and modifications that may be included in the IEP and gives examples for books, curriculum, instruction, assignments, and behavior.

Accommodations on High-Stakes Tests

Section 504 Plans, Accommodations and Modifications

Answers to Your FAQs about Special Education: Accommodations and Modifications


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