Accessibility & Accommodations for General Assessments

In the past, students with disabilities, English learners (ELs), and ELs with disabilities were provided access to participation in general assessments only through the provision of accommodations. An emphasis on universally designed assessments was initiated as a way to increase the access characteristics of assessments for all students, including students with disabilities, ELs, and ELs with disabilities.

Now, as more states use technology-based assessments, many assessments offer new ways to provide students with access to the content. Often they have levels of accessibility features that include:

  • Universal features such as zoom and highlighting that are either embedded in the assessment and are immediately available for all students, or are non-embedded and provided by a human.
  • Designated features that are embedded in the assessment (such as text to speech or picture dictionaries) or non-embedded features (such as read aloud or bilingual dictionaries) are available to any student, if needed. These features must be determined before testing so that they can be available to the student.
  • Accommodations,  which are changes in testing materials or procedures that allow students with documented disabilities or ELs to show their knowledge and skills (for example, a human sign language interpreter for an EL with a hearing impairment who does not use American Sign Language). These may be either embedded or non-embedded.

These new approaches to accessibility allow for more accurate measurement of the student's knowledge and skills and are an important part of technology-based and paper-pencil testing.

 

Related Publications

Educators' Experiences With and Attitudes Toward Accessibility Features and Accommodations

Formats: PDF

NCEO State Surveys: 2016 Survey of States: State Activities Amid Evolving Educational Policies

Formats: PDF

Forum on Text Readers for Everyone on All Tests: Getting a Handle on What This Means

Formats: PDF

NCEO APR Snapshot Briefs: 2013-2014 APR Snapshot #11: Assessment Accommodations Use by Students Receiving Special Education Services (#11)

Formats: Online

CCSSO Accessibility Manual: How To Select, Administer, And Evaluate Use Of Accessibility Supports For Instruction And Assessment Of All Students

Formats: Word

Forum on Common Language for States and Assessment Vendors

Formats: PDF

NCEO Reports: 2015-16 High School Assessment Accommodations Policies: An Analysis of ACT, SAT, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced (#403)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Reports: A Summary of the Research on the Effects of Test Accommodations: 2013-2014 (#402)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Reports: Principios y Características de Sistemas Inclusivos de Evaluación en un Escenario de Evaluación Cambiante (#400 Spanish)

Formats: Online , PDF

White Paper on Common Accessibility Language for States and Assessment Vendors

Formats: PDF

NCEO APR Snapshot Briefs: 2011-2012 APR Snapshot #8: Assessment Accommodations Use by Students Receiving Special Education Services (#8)

Formats: Online

Lessons Learned About Assessment from Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in College and Career Ready Assessments

Formats: PDF

NCEO Reports: Principles and Characteristics of Inclusive Assessment Systems in a Changing Assessment Landscape (#400)

Formats: Online , PDF

Forum on Implementing Accessibility Frameworks for ALL Students

Formats: PDF

NCEO State Surveys: 2014 Survey of States: Initiatives, Trends, and Accomplishments

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Brief: Making Accessibility Decisions for ALL Students (#11)

Formats: Online , PDF

Sign Support Guidelines for Accessible Assessments: Insights From Cognitive Labs

Formats: PDF

Audio Support Guidelines for Accessible Assessments: Insights From Cognitive Labs

Formats: PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: 2013 State Policies for Selected Response Accommodations on Statewide Assessments (#93)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: A Summary of the Research on the Effects of Test Accommodations, 2011-2012 (#94)

Formats: Online , PDF

Voices From the Field: Making State Assessment Decisions for English Language Learners With Disabilities

Formats: PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: 2012 State Policies for Accommodations Used to Deliver Assessments Orally (#91)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO APR Snapshot Briefs: 2010-2011 APR Snapshot #5: Assessment Accommodations Use by Students Receiving Special Education Services (#5)

Formats: Online

NCEO Technical Reports: A Summary of the Research on the Effects of Test Accommodations: 2009-2010 (#65)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: Test Administrators' Perspectives on the Use of the Read Aloud Accommodation in Math on State Tests for Accountability (#66)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: Using Cognitive Labs to Evaluate Student Experiences with the Read-Aloud Accommodation in Math (#67)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: Rules for Audio Representation of Science Items on a Statewide Assessment: Results of a Comparative Study (#64)

Formats: Online , PDF

PARA Accessible Reading Assessment Reports: Developing and Researching an Accessible Reading Assessment for Students with Disabilities

Formats: PDF

NCEO APR Snapshot Briefs: 2008-2009 APR Snapshot #2: Assessment Accommodations Use by Special Education Students (#2)

Formats: Online

NCEO Synthesis Reports: 2009 State Policies on Assessment Participation and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities (#83)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: Professional Development to Improve Accommodations Decisions - A Review of the Literature (#84)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Brief: Developing Common Accommodations Policies Discussion Points for Consortia (#2)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Brief: Don't Forget Accommodations! Five Questions To Ask When Moving to Technology-based Assessments (#1)

Formats: Online , PDF

Meeting the Needs of Special Education Students: Recommendations for the Race-to-the-Top Consortia and States

Formats: PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: Accommodations: Results of a Survey of Alabama Special Education Teachers (#81)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: Science Assessments for Students with Disabilities in School Year 2006-2007: What We Know about Participation, Performance, and Accommodations (#77)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO State Surveys: 2009 Survey of States - Accomplishments and New Issues at the End of a Decade of Change

Formats: Online , PDF

PARA Accessible Reading Assessment Reports: Cognitive and Achievement Differences Between Students with Divergent Reading and Oral Comprehension Skills: Implications for Accessible Reading Assessment Research

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: A Summary of the Research on the Effects of Test Accommodations: 2007-2008 (#56)

Formats: Online , PDF

PARA Accessible Reading Assessment Reports: Examination of a Reading Pen as a Partial Auditory Accommodation for Reading Assessment

Formats: Online , PDF

Improving Accommodations Outcomes: Monitoring Instructional and Assessment Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Formats: PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: State Reports on the Participation and Performance of English Language Learners with Disabilities in 2006-2007 (#54)

Formats: Online , PDF

PARA Accessible Reading Assessment Reports: Disabilities and Reading: Understanding the Effects of Disabilities and Their Relationship to Reading Instruction and Assessment

Formats: Online , PDF

PARA Accessible Reading Assessment Reports: Exploring Factors that Affect the Accessibility of Reading Comprehension Assessments for Students with Disabilities: A Study of Segmented Text

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: An Analysis of Accommodations Issues from the Standards and Assessments Peer Review (#51)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: Student Think-Aloud Reflections on Comprehensible and Readable Assessment Items: Perspectives on What Does and Does Not Make an Item Readable (#48)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: A Summary of the Research on the Effects of Test Accommodations: 2005-2006 (#47)

Formats: Online , PDF

PARA Accessible Reading Assessment Reports: What Do State Reading Test Specifications Specify?

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Annual Performance Reports and State Performance Plans: 2004-2005 State Assessment Data

Formats: PDF

Hints and Tips for Addressing Accommodations Issues for Peer Review

Formats: PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: A Summary of Research on the Effects of Test Accommodations: 2002 through 2004 (#45)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: A Comparison of IEP/504 Accommodations Under Classroom and Standardized Testing Conditions: A Preliminary Report on SEELS Data (#63)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: Item-Level Effects of the Read-Aloud Accommodation for Students with Reading Disabilities (#65)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: 2005 State Policies on Assessment Participation and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities (#64)

Formats: Online , PDF

PARA Accessible Reading Assessment Reports: State Accommodations Policies: Implications for the Assessment of Reading

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: Access Assistants for State Assessments: A Study of State Guidelines for Scribes, Readers, and Sign Language Interpreters (#58)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: Steady Progress: State Public Reporting Practices for Students with Disabilities After the First Year of NCLB (2002-2003) (#40)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: State Literacy Standards, Practice, and Testing: Exploring Accessibility (#38)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Synthesis Reports: Varied Opinions on How to Report Accommodated Test Scores: Findings Based on CTB/McGraw-Hill's Framework for Classifying Accommodations (#49)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Policy Directions: Using Computer-based Tests with Students with Disabilities (#15)

Formats: Online , PDF

NCEO Technical Reports: Read-Aloud Accommodations: Effects on Multiple-Choice Reading and Math Items (#31)

Formats: Online

NCEO Technical Reports: What Databases Tell Us about Differential Levels of Use and How to Document the Use of Accommodations (#30)

Formats: Online

NCEO Limited English Proficiency Projects Reports: The Effects of a Simplified English Language Dictionary on a Reading Test (#1)

Formats: Online