Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Extended Time as a Testing Accommodation: Its Effects and Perceived Consequences

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Extended Time as a Testing Accommodation: Its Effects and Perceived Consequences

Article excerpt

A primary strategy for including many students with disabilities in statewide accountability systems is to provide them with accommodations on large-scale, standardized tests. Typically, teachers provide students with multiple accommodations as needed; one of the most frequently used accommodations is extended time. Extended or extra time is often needed when assistance is given to students, and it is frequently used as part of a package of accommodations teachers provide to students with disabilities (Schulte, Elliott, & Kratochwill, 2000). It has been observed that time and speed of response are constructs that rarely, if ever, appear in the state or district content standards that large-scale assessments are designed to measure. Time is actually more of a test management issue than a construct to be measured in learners (Elliott, Braden, & White, 2001). Nevertheless, the amount of time allowed to respond to questions on a test is highly important to most test takers. Thus, the goal of this study was to conduct an experimental analysis of the effects of an extended or extra time accommodation on the test performance of students with varying skill levels in mathematics. We considered the effects and consequences of this accommodation from both validity and students' psychological perspectives.

ACCOMMODATIONS AND TEST SCORE VALIDITY

Accommodations are "changes in standardized assessment conditions introduced to 'level the playing field' for students by removing the construct-irrelevant variance created by their disabilities" (Tindal & Fuchs, 1999, p. 9). In less technical terms, "the purpose of an assessment accommodation is to allow students with disabilities to show what they know without the impediment of the disability" (Elliott, Ysseldyke, Thurlow, & Erickson, 1998, p. 22). For the students with disabilities who participate in assessments with accommodations, information is needed regarding which accommodations are valid--that is, which accommodations maintain the integrity of students' test results so that meaningful comparisons can be made between their scores and (a) scores of students without disabilities (for norm-referenced testing) or (b) academic standards (for criterion-referenced testing).

Many would argue that the use of testing accommodations (e.g., extended time) directly contradicts the nature of norm-referenced standardized testing. When test results are not obtained under nearly uniform conditions, error is introduced into individuals' scores, thereby reducing the validity (i.e., the degree to which tests are thought to measure a particular construct equally across individuals) of resulting scores. Geisinger (1994) pointed out that the extent to which accommodations (i.e., nonstandardized testing procedures) are used to elicit students' true performance on a test correlates with the amount of error that may be introduced into the testing process. Furthermore, as McDonnell, McLaughlin, and Morison (1997) noted, there are significant consequences of not knowing the degree and nature of the impact accommodations may have on students' test scores.

Many educators and researchers subscribe to the accommodation--disability interaction paradigm articulated by Phillips (1994). Under this paradigm, a valid accommodation is a tactic that removes barriers due to particular disabilities (or, more specifically, due to deficits in the specific access skills that enable students to perform to their potential on a test), thereby improving students' performance and allowing their true skills to be shown. The assumption of this paradigm is that because students without disabilities do not apparently have barriers to be overcome, the use of accommodations with these students should not significantly improve their scores.

At this point, educators are often unable to make evidence-based decisions about which accommodations to endorse because relatively little experimental research has examined the effects of accommodations on students' test scores. …

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