Teachers Weigh-In: Do We Over Accommodate? Join the Debate…

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Do We Over Accommodate Students with Special Needs?

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Read more as teachers debate accommodations for students.  Pete & Pam Wright and Advocate Pat Howey join the discussion. Take the poll – then click “read more” to add your comment and join the debate!

Position #1 Accommodations and Modifications Train Students to Under Perform

I teach at a charter school. We feel that if the students would do their homework and classwork, they would have no trouble passing tests.

We care about the kids and go the extra mile for those who have special needs. We have high expectations and good strategies. Here is the problem. We’re asked by the Special Education Director to modify lessons and tests to accommodate some low performing students. 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. All children have the right to an education that will allow them to succeed to the fullest extent of their potential. Of course a teacher must accommodate.

The DOE 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 who points out that if teachers differentiated instruction to meet individual student needs, there might not be a need for special education.

  • 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?

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.

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.

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.

Pete Wright Answers

The purpose of testing is to find out what the child has learned.

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.

Children with disabilities are often not taught how to write, read, spell or do arithmetic in special education. Because special educators want to help, they often try to make things easier for the child by lowering the bar with modifications and accommodations. Special educators often erroneously believe that if a child has a disability, the child cannot learn these skills. In most cases, they are wrong.

Indiana Advocate Pat Howey Responds

Modifications allow us to be effective and efficient. They allow us to be productive and to concentrate on our actual work product instead of on the work process. The real question is not whether making modifications is “fair,” but what will be lost if you provide modifications to this child? What is the right thing to do for this individual child?

Learn More

Are Teachers Required to Provide All Accommodations & Modifications Listed in the Child’s IEP?

Why Must I Make Modifications for a Child? It Seems Unfair to Other Children

Teachers Debate Accommodations & Modifications

  1. Balancing accommodations for special needs students while maintaining expectations is crucial. In education, effective “v2r project management” involves finding a middle ground that supports students without fostering dependency. Striking this balance ensures meaningful learning experiences, encouraging both achievement and the development of strong work habits.

  2. Navigating educational challenges mirrors the precision of “general translation services in Dallas.” Striking a balance between support and empowerment is vital. While accommodating students is essential, fostering independence and resilience is equally crucial. Just as translations bridge language gaps, education bridges gaps in learning, aiming for holistic growth.

  3. IEP’s are being handed out like candy. Parents think it will give them a leg up but in reality that’s not happening at all. A teacher’s job is to teach the curriculum not to be an individual tutor for 60+ students and tailor everything individually. That’s not feasible! It’s simply impossible. We are creating the marshmellow generation who will be ill-equipped to deal with life as there are no accomodations in life. Yes, a few students actually need IEP’s but not every kid or every other kid like I have been seeing. It just creates an excuse for a student to get out of something which they will inevitably have to do in the real world when they leave bubble world and because they got no practice to do it in school they will fall on their face. IEP’s extend childhood and immaturity.

  4. Again: distinction between accommodations [A’s] and modifications [M’s]. A’s do not change expected performance standards. M’s do! Grade earned must match degree to which sped student demonstrates content knowledge. M’s=lowered expectations [significantly less content knowledge] compared to non-sped. If sped student is so deficient as to not be expected to earn at least a D or a “Pass,” for the gen ed class, then shd not be in that class. Tchrs. should consider contracting grades under {“M’s] for sped student – menu of items under each letter grade to earn an A-B-C-D or P in that class. Must not unfairly advantage sped over gen ed student if sped not doing same to earn same grade. Larger problem: “A” grade in Sped classes not same as A in gen ed, inflates sped GPA over non-sped.

  5. There is a diifference betw “accommodations” & “modifications. Distinction not made clear in discussion. Terms being used interchangeably, may lead to confusion. An accommodation is innocuous. It “levels the playing field.” Standards stay the same. Expectations for performance stay the same. Just allows the student to demonstrate knowledge of content in alternate fashion. Modification fundamentally alters the standard or curriculum – delivered at a lower level = reduced content & reduced expectation & should have grading consequences. Mods should not “advantage” sped student over gened student in grading. Use Pass-Fail or grade contracting in those cases, especially in H.S. where GPA and ranking are issues. No “mod” in college.

    • I always heard true modification is to be reserved for extreme cases where it has been ultimately determined the student cannot access the curriculum itself as it stands. They are to be used to allow student to at least access some of it and require a different quality.

      Indeed, modifications do not exist in college.

  6. I have no issue with reasonably written and implemented IEPs. I have serious problems with IEPS on which every accommodation is marked down- especially when I have multiple students with plans and no para to push in. I’m then expected to neglect 25+ other students for the one(s) with an IEP. I also have concerns about students who are Emotionally Disabled and repeatedly prone to unprovoked violence being allowed to remain in the class with non-violent children. It’s not uncommon in my current district for teachers to evacuate their classes when one of these students blows up, or for someone to be physically assaulted, yet there frequently are no consequences because of the IEP (yes, that is the precise reason from admin and SPED), and the student ultimately returns to class and the behavior repeats. Who benefits from this?

  7. Accommodations have nothing to do with lowering standards, they have to do with equal access. Section 504 requires the schools to do that. It’s not up for a debate.

    I find it very frustrating when teachers equate all disabilities with mental retardation and accommodations with giving good grades for nothing.

    Consider a fictitious disorder where a kid is awake for only 30 minutes of each hour. To have the same access, this kid needs all the testing while awake and a good substitute for missed parts of the lessons. Not double time, not an alarm clock, not a class so easy, so that he can pass it sleeping half of the time.

    Restricting or allowing this accommodation will not change his adaptation to the real world, but if properly educated he will have more choices, one off which may be a job compatible with the odd sleeping pattern.

  8. I find that any accommodations that I ask for, for my son, are simply good teaching methods and practices, basic things that would benefit ALL THE KIDS in his classes … written descriptions of what work is expected and when, clear rubrics, visual supports, help with organizational skills … SERIOUSLY, whenever I read through lists of accommodations for kids with ADHD, etc., I always think, “shouldn’t they just do that for all the students?”

  9. My answer is not one of the choices! Yes, I believe we over accommodate for students but we are not training them to underperform! Many of the accommodations we make are based on convenience and time issues. Many are based on the prospect that at some point they may need them especially when taking the state mandated all important test! While we differentiate instruction, and challenge and teach our students at their level and abilities, showing growth is not what the state wants. They want all students to perform in a set level according to what they think the child should know. By over accommodating our students, we are not preparing them for the “high stakes testing” that determines their future (advancing to the next grade, graduating, as well as school grades and funding)

  10. I wish the school’s administrators would not fight parents to get a 504 or IEP plans in our school district.

  11. I am gravely concerned that the overuse of IEP accommodations at the secondary or high school level leaves students unprepared for the competition with, virtually, no safety net that they will face after high school. I believe that this is especially true for students with behavioral problems. The FBA/BIP process over-focuses on what the adults surrounding the young adult will do and not nearly enough on what the student will do to improve their behavior while facing reasonable consequences.

    Our students in high school have to be, in the words of a parent I work with, “real world ready” if they are going to access and benefit from post-secondary opportunity.

    If we fail to teach essential personal responsibility we have failed our children.

  12. A teacher must implement instruction that meets the needs of all students, whether they have a learning disability, slow learner, regular student, or gifted. If we do not accommodate all students the learning will not be effective and ultimately cause the student who is struggling to fall behind. A personal story regarding the refusal to accommodate is shared in the book, Snitch: True Stories of Destructive Classrooms and Bad Teachers. The stories are from a parents point of view and a teachers.

  13. Teacher in Illinois – You just truly confirmed my concerns that I plan to discuss with my child’ s team as she wants to go to college. I question the accomodations are leading to less academic rigor that she needs to experience now equally with her peers. She must be on the same playing field with her peers to truly measure her abilities. She is old enough to better self monitor her weaknesses and strengths and self advocate. She is in t he 7th grade and very. I became concerned this year as some of the accomodations were great but did fully challenge her abilities. So, she may getting a false confidence. That is not good for someone who wants to go the college for the military.

  14. The problem is where the term “differentiation” ends up being modification. When the expectations are lowered to the point where they so loosely link to a standard but are so far away from grade level expectations then the work is modified, not differentiated. Unfortunately the term differentiation has become synonymous with lowering hte bar instead of showing knowledge in a different manner.

  15. Pam wrote, “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.” That wasn’t the question. Of course we differentiate instruction. Do We Over Accommodate Students with Special Needs? Yes-2 different ideas. Some -where I am-most, don’t level the playing field, they change the game- eliminate standards and grade on attendence. A’s & B’s for everyone. Then parents wonder why students “test poorly” on standardized tests.

  16. Thanks for clarifying accomodations versus modifications as the two are very different. My teenage child with dyslexia wants to attend college. I advocate for the team to raise bar and not over modify or accommodate as he will never fully get prepared for college. I agree that sometimes we over accommodate and we must be careful. It is individual to the needs of the child. My son wants to attends college, he must be presented with work at the level of his peers to understand the difficulty and concepts he needs to master and incorporating assistive technology. I have to work carefully with his team each to ensure at he is not over accommodated. He speaks up and ask for harder work when teachers try over accommodate. As a parent, it seems my son and I have to educate the team to fully accept his vision to attend college.

  17. It is my opinion that the question you have asked may be misinterpreted by many of the voters. While you are asking about accommodations, many teachers may be thinking modifications. There is a difference between the two. I have noted that many special education teachers tend to lump the two together instead of differentiating between them. An accommodation does not change what the student is supposed to learn. Modifications, on the other hand, changes the level of instruction. A common accommodation is time extension, while a modification might be eliminating responsibility for certain lessons within a math unit.

    Accommodations allow a student to demonstrate knowledge that has been gained. Recording an answer in a test booklet as opposed to filling in a grid is not giving them an unfair advantage.

    Sharon 🙂

  18. accommodate: provide with something, make room for, give consideration to. m-w.com.

    What we call accommodation often requires less from students rather than more instruction from us. We accommode ourselves, not the children, when we choose to compensate rather than remediate.

    Teachers get our roles wrong on that level playing field, judging winners and losers rather than coaching until they’re all winners.

    One of my young friends tried to lead a rebellion in her middle school special ed class, wanting to learn everything that the general ed students were learning. Sadly, she did not succeed.

    If accommodation means provision, we cannot use it to describe removal of learning goals. Remove impediments to the goals, but keep the goals. We can’t ask them to keep their eyes on the prize when there is no longer any prize.

  19. I am a Special Day Class teacher 4 yrs now and was Gen Ed 7 yrs. I debated my answer to this survey, and troubled by the wording of the question. We see children with accommodations “master’ computer programs, recount movie plots, know video game characters, etc. with ease. My IEP’S state “use of calculator.” I’m rethinking that. True, this is a job tool and it is wonderful they know how to use it, but take it away, they have trouble even adding to 10 on their fingers. I spent months on times tables and math facts, and thought the calculator necessary to proceed on to other standards. With all that is taught each day in California schools, I think families have to be more involved afterschool and in the evenings to help with rote memory practice. Children don’t think it’s important when the people raising them don’t help at home.

    • I get so tired of hearing teachers say “parents need to be more involved after school with their children’s homework”. I don’t think these teachers have any idea what goes on at home, after school. Once I get home after work, get dinner ready and eat then the homework challenge!!! The hours upon hours spent each night trying to do the homework and the crying from the child because they are exhausted after being in school all day and then having to do school work all night. It is exhausting for all of us and in the end because there is sooo much homework, there is no time for “rote memory practice”. Then the teacher says, well the homework should only take 15 minutes. With a learning disabled child, that 15 minute homework takes an hour and sometimes 2 hours (with every subject).

  20. Over accommodate? Hardly. However, I do believe that the “appropriate” accommodation to survive school may not be the “correct” one to survive life. As I have mentioned on occasion to our school, the teachers only want to get to the end of the school year. Whereas, the parents have long term goals of independence and self-sufficiency. On the other hand, the child only wants to get to lunch!….That is why the parents are so important to the process. For example, do I REALLY think that the ability to “cut and paste”, as an accommodation, will help my child in the workplace…NO!!! But to the teachers, this may be completely acceptable……Please remember, the only way to get where you want to go is to chart a course beyond the horizon, not to the bow of the boat!!!

  21. It is fine to use accommodations to level the playing field, modifications when necessary. What I do not like to see is modifications to content when a simple accommodation will do. It is easier to lower the expectation in many cases than to provide consistent supports.

  22. Aren’t accommodations and modifications totally different concepts. Why in the first 2 questions were accommodations used, but in the 3rd question (not sure) the wording was modification.

  23. I had to vote unsure because I have seen both too much accommodations and too little which caused a lot of frustration and changes as often as the teachers change.
    There needs to be more training for teachers, mainstream, special ed, the aides and parents to understand this process.
    Guidelines for what is appropriate accommodations and modifications (especially with technology usage) need to be created as the IEP process is insufficient for parents to really know what is appropriate for their child.

  24. This is tough. As a parent of a child with special needs, i will say that his accommodations are needed.on the other hand i feel like if for example his papers are cut in half, he gets frequent breaks, and he does not have to read his own passages during a test is this helping him? It helps him make it through the school day yes, it is the only way the school can get his work completed yes, but it is to a degree not helping him at all. What will his work habits be when he grows up? His employer will not cut his tasks in half, or read any material for him, and he sure will not get frequent breaks. It is a concern with me, but i know with his diagnosis these accommodations are mandatory for him to learn. I work with his school, any incomplete work is to be sent home to be completed in his play time. Sounds harsh, but he has to know its better to complete it when it is assigned to him. I work very closely with the school to try and minimize the amount of accommodations he needs. I believe they can help or hinder, accommodations are one thing, but the relationship between the school and parents is key. Because if everyone is on the same page it is easier to breathe accommodations at a minimal.

  25. I believe children sometimes are not pushed to their fullest potential, both special needs and mainstream. My child has an IEP and I see him receiving passes when he should not. If he does not turn in assignments, they do not seem to care. I push for him to finish his homework but if there are no consequences at school, why should he care?
    I am also in school to become a special needs teacher. I will do what is best for my students but I will also expect them to live up to their potential. This does not mean I wont help them or encourage them, just that educators and parents need to come together with their desires for the child’s education. I also believe that every child needs to be taught in the way way they learn. Its not only beneficial for special needs but mainstream also.

  26. My daughter has Ehlers-Danlos, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia & ADHD. Writing for her is extremely difficult and takes a ton of effort. Through school, she is highly skilled on a computer and has one available for classes. She goes to it whenever she has to write an assignment. If she didn’t have the accommodations that she has, she would be failing school. She is given copies of notes that she pastes into a notebook. With that she can follow along and listen well to the teacher instead of trying to take any notes of her own. I check in with her teachers constantly and they work hard at helping her learn the material. She is not skipping out on anything and learns the same things all the other kids learn. I don’t want her handed any grades and expect her to work hard and learn. She is only helped to compensate for her disabilities.

  27. Doesn’t this depend highly on WHY the accommodation is being used and what is happening in addition to accommodations?

    I’ve known schools to over-accommodate because they fail to provide proper instruction to adequately increase progress in certain areas. While some accommodations will always be required, for example, a wheel-chair for someone that will never, ever walk again, others should be temporary solutions while the student is provided sufficient and proper instructions to help close the gap in deficit areas.

    Often times accommodations are used so a school can keep doing things a certain way when there are alternatives that would help the student not need to be accommodated.

  28. The answer to this question depends on what your goal is. (OK, maybe my training as a satellite system engineer is showing.)
    If the intent is to teach, then one should teach in the way that the kids learn and differentiate the instruction.
    If the intent is to pass high stakes exams, then one should teach exam taking. (I’m not kidding, best thing that happened to me in early college was a professor who spent 15 minutes teaching just that.)
    If the intent is to teach as many kids as possible for the least cost, then the factory model with special needs kids being left out is the way to go.
    I see all things being used – based on what the intent is.

    Personally, I think special needs kids need to be taught the way that they learn. Better quality of life for them and reduced societal costs for everyone else.

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