Academic journal article Exceptional Children

An Experimental Analysis of Accommodation Decisions on Large-Scale Mathematics Tests

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

An Experimental Analysis of Accommodation Decisions on Large-Scale Mathematics Tests

Article excerpt



Due to recent mandates to include all students in large-scale testing (e.g., No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, IDEA 1997, and Improving America's Schools Act of 1994), increased attention is being paid to testing accommodations research for students with disabilities. In a comprehensive summary of this topic, Tindal and Fuchs (1999) cite 115 references from research on test accommodations. Over half of these were published in the 1990s. Thurlow, House, Scott, and Ysseldyke (2000) report that the number of states with active policies on accommodations increased from 21 in 1993 to 39 in 1997. Notwithstanding this interest, a lack of consensus exists over when accommodations are appropriate (Fuchs, Fuchs, Eaton, Hamlett, & Karns, 2000). One commonly used accommodation for students with low reading skill is the verbatim oral presentation of mathematics items. Limited research suggests that teachers are not effective at assigning this accommodation. The present article attempts to add empirical evidence to the field by examining the accuracy of teachers' perceptions of the effectiveness of read-aloud accommodations for students with disabilities. We also attempt to develop a profile of students who might benefit from this type of accommodation.


A testing accommodation is defined as a change in test presentation or response format that does not alter the construct under consideration (Tindal & Fuchs, 1999). The significance of accommodation decisions is evident in the consequences of poor choices. For example, certain types of accommodations give specific students access to tests otherwise unavailable to them. "Disallowing valid accommodations prevents students with disabilities from demonstrating their competence" (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, et. al, 2000, p. 68). One illustration of this is the practice of reading math test items aloud to students with low reading ability. Several studies indicate that this procedure differentially aids students with reading difficulties as compared to more able readers (Fuchs, Fuchs, Eaton, et al., 2000; Helwig, Rozek-Tedesco, Tindal, Heath, & Almond, 1999; Johnson, 2000; Tindal, Heath, Hollenbeck, Almond, & Harniss, 1998; Weston, 1999). For this accommodation to be useful, however, special education teachers, individualized education program (IEP) team members, and others involved in assessment decisions, must be accurate in identifying students who would benefit. The research reported in this article attempts to quantify this efficiency.

Misapplying this accommodation may also be detrimental to some students. Significant numbers of teachers feel that reading test items aloud is frustrating and distracting for some students (Weston, 1999). Some empirical evidence supports this supposition. For example, Helwig, Rozek, Tedesco, and Tindal (2002) found that higher skilled readers performed better on a standard administration of a mathematics test, rather than when items were read aloud to them. Fuchs, Fuchs, Eaton, et al., (2000) found similar results with certain students on a read-aloud accommodation of extended text passages. The reasons for this are not dear, although students differ in their abilities to listen (Joshi, Williams, & Wood, 1998), remember (Swanson, Cochran, & Ewers, 1990), and construct auditory versus visual schema (Luger, Johnson, Stern, Newman, & Yeo, 1994; Oakhill & Yuill, 1996).

It is also possible that the background noise of oral presentations might be distracting for some students who choose to read items for themselves. Evidence suggests that the comprehension of skilled readers decreases when text is read aloud (Goldman, Hogaboam, Bell, & Perfetti, 1980). Accommodations tend to be over-recommended by teachers for students with disabilities (Fuchs, Fuchs, Eaton, et al., 2000; Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, et al. …

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