What are academic modifications?

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

At a glance

  • An academic modification is a change to what a student is taught or expected to do in school.

  • An example of a modification is less homework or easier assignments.

  • Before using a modification, it’s often better to try changing how a child learns, or try using a different teaching strategy.

School can be a challenge for kids with and . And when they struggle, one possible response is to give them less schoolwork or simpler assignments. This is called an academic modification. A modification is a change to what a student is taught or expected to do in school.

While modifications can make school easier for kids, they can have serious drawbacks. Watch an expert explain more about modifications.

All public schools have academic standards for what kids are expected to learn in each grade. These apply to reading, math, and other subjects. For instance, third graders are usually expected to learn multiplication.

Modifications change these expectations. They’re typically used when a child has trouble keeping up in school.

Take a third grader with math challenges who hasn’t mastered addition. A school may offer a modification that keeps the child working on addition, while the rest of the class moves on to multiplication. Or the child could have fewer test questions or less homework. (See other examples of modifications.)

Modifications are controversial. It’s true that they can make school less of a struggle for students, including kids who learn and think differently. But the result may be that kids learn less than their peers. They may fall behind on important skills. Over time, this can put them at a big disadvantage.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Melody Musgrove, EdD served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.