Types of Testing Accommodations (page 4)
As indicated in Chapter 2, recent years have witnessed an increased awareness and use of testing accommodations in large-scale testing as well as in classroom testing. An impetus for this increase is the legislative mandate for students with disabilities and ELLs to participate in state and district-wide assessment programs. Another reason is the inclusive education movement that calls for students with disabilities to be educated and assessed in the general education classroom. While most of the testing accommodations have been developed for students with disabilities, some have been developed for ELLs. The rationales for the use of testing accommodations for these two student populations are similar. A review of the literature (e.g., AERA, APA, & NCME, 1999; Siskind, 1993; Thurlow, Liu, Erickson, Spicuzza, & El Sawaf, 1996; Thurlow, Ysseldyke, and Silverstein, 1995) indicates testing accommodations can be organized generally into several categories: (1) modification of setting, (2) modification of presentation format, (3) modification of response format, (4) modification of timing and scheduling, (5) using portions of a test or substitute tests, (6) testing of limits. This organizational scheme can be used to categorize testing accommodations applicable to students with disabilities as well as ELLs. In this section, the accommodations for the two student populations are discussed together under each category. Although some accommodations can be used for both student populations, others are suitable only to students with a particular type of disability or to ELLs with a certain level of English proficiency. Explanations of the six types of accommodations follow. Further discussions of their use with different specific types of diverse learners are provided in Chapters 5, 6, and 7.
Modification of Setting
Modification of setting, also known as setting accommodations, is associated with modifications in the location, environment, or condition of testing. Examples of this type of accommodations include testing in an alternative location, individual testing, small group testing, preferential seating, and using a bilingual test administrator. If a standard testing site is not readily accessible to special test takers (e.g., students with wheelchairs), modification of the architectural structure of the testing site should be made to improve accessibility. Special students may also be allowed to take the test in an alternative location or facility (e.g., home with supervision). Sometimes it is appropriate to change group test administration to individual administration for students who cannot take the test in a group setting, or for students whose participation in group testing would pose an interference to other test takers. For example, a student with a diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be allowed to take a test alone in a private room or test carrel. In addition, setting accommodation includes modifications of the testing environment to make it more conducive to optimal performance of diverse learners, such as using special lighting, special acoustics, amplification devices, adaptive furniture, or other equipment.
Modification of Presentation Format
Modifying the presentation format of tests is a much-reported type of testing accommodation. It involves changing the medium of test administration including test instructions, test items, or both. For example, for students who are blind or visually impaired, the test directions and items may be presented orally, in Braille, or in large print. For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, tests may be administered in sign language, in writing, or with manual demonstrations. Other modifications of presentation format include oral reading of directions, explaining directions, signing directions, reducing the number of items per page, increasing spacing between items, rearranging format of test questions, reordering of test items, and placing markers to maintain space. Some of these accommodations may be used for students with disabilities as well as ELLs. Other accommodations specific to ELLs include oral reading of test directions in the student's native language, written translation of the directions into the student's native language, use of a bilingual interpreter to render the questions into the student's native language, and use of a bilingual dictionary or spell checker.
Modification of Response Format
Modifying response format is used for students who are unable to respond to the test items in the standardized format. The response format is changed to allow the student to answer in his or her preferred modality of communication. For example, students with expressive language deficits may be allowed to write their answers or simply point to the preferred response. Students with motoric impairments who cannot mark responses or write answers may give their answers orally and have another person record them. Other often-used response accommodations for students with disabilities include marking responses on booklet, using computer or word processor for responding, using template for responding, and giving response in sign language. Some commonly used response accommodations for ELLs include using a bilingual dictionary, giving responses orally in the student's native language, writing answers in native language, and using an interpreter to write responses in English.
Modification of Timing and Scheduling
Modification of timing involves changing the time and scheduling requirements of testing, such as allowing additional time to complete the test, changing the time of day for test administration, offering breaks during test, administering test in multiple sessions, and modifying order of tests administered. These testing accommodations can be used for both students with disabilities and ELLs. A major timing accommodation is extended time. Some diverse learners, due to their disabilities or limited English language skills, have a slower speed in processing test information than their general education peers. These students need additional time than normally allowed on standardized tests to demonstrate what they know and can do. Students with sensory disabilities sometimes also need extended time to compensate for their disabilities. For example, reading Braille and using an audio cassette recorder in taking a test may take longer time than reading regular print. Another time accommodation is adjusting scheduling of testing. For some students, it may not be possible to administer a test in one session as called for by the standard administration procedure. Frequent breaks during testing may be necessary for students unable to sustain concentration for a significant amount of time or for those whose sustained effort is reduced by fatigue factor. In these situations, test administration may be conducted in multiple sessions or extended over several days.
Extended time is a most frequently requested accommodation. However, some unresolved issues exist in the use of this accommodation, especially in large-scale assessment. One issue involves determining the appropriate amount of extra time needed by a particular test taker. It would be desirable to offer just the right amount of time needed by the student, rather than simply allowing him or her a multiple of the standard time, as is done in most current practices. Another issue involves determining whether timing accommodation is truly needed by some students, especially those with certain psychological disorders such as ADHD and anxiety disorder (Ranseen, 1998). Further research is needed to establish a sound empirical basis for making these decisions.
Using Portions of a Test or Substitute Tests
Often a test or a test battery is comprised of multiple parts, each requiring a particular physical, sensory, or linguistic capability to perform. When a student's disability or English language level adversely interferes with his or her performance on a particular part of the test, that portion should be eliminated. The student should be administered only those portion(s) of the test that are not impacted by his or her disability or language barrier. For example, in testing a deaf student, the verbal scale of an intelligence test should be omitted, because the result is more likely to reflect the student's hearing impairment than his or her verbal cognitive ability. The performance scale, however, can be administered to measure nonverbal abilities, because the student has functional ability in processing visually presented information. Alternatively, it may be desirable to use a substitute test in place of the original test under consideration. For example, certain tests of cognitive abilities do not emphasize verbal responses. It is appropriate to use such a test or a test specifically designed to measure cognitive abilities of the deaf in this case. Likewise, a substitute test that does not require English language skills (e.g., a nonverbal intelligence test) can be used in assessing the cognitive abilities of students who have very limited English proficiency. However, one disadvantage of this approach is that it is often difficult to find substitute tests with adequate technical quality that are specifically designed for students with disabilities or ELLs (AERA, APA, & NCME, 1999).
Testing of Limits
Testing of limits may be used as an accommodation for diverse learners. In testing of limits, the test is first administered to the student using the standard test administration procedure. After the completion of the standard administration, the test is given again to the student with a series of help steps (e.g., providing additional cues or structure, eliminating time limits, asking probing questions) to determine whether the student can improve his or her performance with additional help (Sattler, 2001). Comparison of results between standard test administration and testing-of-limits administration often yields valuable insight regarding the student's true ability and what the student can or cannot do under different conditions. It should be noted, however, that testing-of-limits results need to be considered carefully because the second testing may reflect "learning" that occurred from the student's having had the opportunity to try the test during standard administration.
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