Accommodations for state standardized tests

Accommodations on tests can remove barriers for kids who learn and think differently. Learn about “universal” tools and other supports students can use on state tests.

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.

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 . Other accommodations, like a quiet room or headphones, may need to be arranged.

Universal tools in state tests

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 spell-check, highlighting, and bookmarks. Some tests even let kids cross out answers digitally to avoid distraction.

States use many different types of standardized tests. The names vary widely, like PARCC, STAR, and others. 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.

Test accommodations in IEPs and 504 plans

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.

In general, when students have accommodations in IEPs or 504 plans, they get those same accommodations on state tests. But sometimes there are different categories for accommodations, such as in-class accommodations or state testing accommodations. Families and schools should talk about and list the appropriate accommodations for state testing.

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.

Tips for using accommodations

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 uses 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. 

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