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Accommodations for state standardized tests

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

At a Glance

  • Accommodations on tests can remove barriers for kids who learn and think differently.

  • Some state tests have “universal” tools and supports that all students can use.

  • Students with IEPs or 504 plans have more options for test accommodations.

Students in public schools often take state standardized tests toward the end of the school year. This can be a stressful time, especially for kids who learn and think differently. Test can help.  

Accommodations can be changes to how kids take tests, like extended time. Or they may be tools and supports, such as an extra notepad.

Many state tests have “universal” tools and supports that all kids can use. This is especially true of computer-based tests. It’s common for these tests to have built-in tools, like spellcheck, highlighting, and bookmarks. Some tests even let kids cross out answers digitally to avoid distraction.

Students with and have more options. They have the right to accommodations that remove barriers on tests caused by their . Schools must make sure IEPs and 504 plans contain a list of what accommodations students will use.

With computer-based tests, accommodations may be built in. For example, there may be a special tool that reads aloud text for a student with . Or there may be a calculator for a student with math struggles. Other accommodations, like a quiet room, extended time, or headphones, may need to be arranged.

Dive deeper

How to get information about universal tools

States use many different types of standardized tests. The names vary widely, like PARCC, STAR, and more. Each has its own set of tools for test takers. In general, when students are getting ready to take the test, the teacher will explain what tools and supports they can use. 

Schools should be ready to give information to parents and caregivers about how the test works. There may even be practice tests to look at.

Get tips on how to reduce test anxiety .

Test accommodations in IEPs and 504 plans

In general, when students have accommodations in IEPs or 504 plans, they get those same accommodations on state tests. That’s why it’s important for schools and families to discuss options. 

Keep in mind that students should be using accommodations in the classroom before using them on a state test. It can be confusing if a child sees an accommodation for the first time on test day. 

Having too many tools or accommodations on a test can be distracting. It’s useful to think about which features to turn on and which features to turn off. 

Some states don’t allow accommodations that defeat the purpose of a question. For instance, if a question is testing whether a student can add two numbers, the state may not allow a calculator for that question. And some states don’t allow read-aloud on questions that test reading. These are tricky issues that schools should discuss with parents and caregivers.

Read more about accommodations . And watch a video with tips for working with the IEP team .

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom