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Do We Over Accommodate?
Teachers Debate Accommodations & Modifications

teaching children to read

Position #1: Accommodations & Modifications Train Students to Underperform

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.

Here's our problem. The Special Education Director told us to modify lessons and tests to accommodate some low-performing students.

We feel that if the students did their homework and classwork, they would not have 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 are training them to under perform.

Position #2: Of Course Teachers Must Accommodate

I am a classroom teacher, tutor and advocate.

Of course teachers must accommodate. Let me point out that the Department of Education regulations specifically require differentiated instruction.

Many school systems have adopted differentiation as their official policy. These school systems believe that all children have a right to an education that will allow them to succeed to the full extent of their potential.

I agreed with Pat Howey when she pointed out that if teachers differentiated instruction to meet individual student needs, there may not be a need for special education. You may be interested in Pat's response to a regular education teacher who asked, Why Must I Make Modifications for a Child? It Seems Unfair to Other Children.

Many children's 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 a child, 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.

How do YOU answer these questions?

  • Should a teacher modify instruction to meet individual needs?
  • Does a child have a right to be literate in reading language and competent in mathematics?
  • Do teachers bear the burden of ensuring that no child is left behind?

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

It is well established that when interventions begin early, they are more effective.

The work of the National Reading Panel shows just how easy it can be for teachers to remediate students who are 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 lead to reading success.

It does not take a rocket scientist to promote reading achievement for 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. No, it doesn't 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 education in a democracy is to educate democratically to reach all learners, regardless of their presumed potential, neurological make-up, cultural heritage, or income level.

Pam Wright Joins the Debate

I don't understand why some teachers believe that differentiating instruction to help a child learn is "unfair" to other children who don't need that particular assistance.

We receive emails from teachers in both camps.

Many teachers and parents are confused about the differences between accommodations and modifications. The terms are often used interchangeably but they are different.

Accommodations Level the Playing Field

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. Some questions that need to be asked and answered are:

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

When people with disabilities do not receive accommodations on tests, the tests 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 affects your fine motor skills, you probably won't be able to fill in the tiny little bubbles on a test sheet. You may need to use the computer version of the test.

Pete Wright Joins the Discussion, Answers Questions About Accommodations in Testing

Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments

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Pete discusses accommodations in testing.

The purpose of testing is to find out what a child has learned. Assume a child with dysgraphia
(a learning disability that affects written language) is taking a history class. How should this child's mastery of history be measured?

If the standard way to measure knowledge of history is with an essay test, this is not an appropriate way to measure knowledge for a child with dysgraphia. An essay test is likely to measure the child's disability (inability to write), not his knowledge of history.

For this child, an appropriate accomodation may be to allow the child to use a computer to write answers to history questions. Isn't this common sense?

Read this article to find out Pete's views on 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

Last revised: 05/09/16
Created: 12/02/07

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