At the end of a Standards of Learning (SOL) workshop I conducted recently, I was asked a question by a 5th grade exceptional education teacher. The question was concerning to me because it appeared that the perspective the teacher was asking the question, was to seek a solution that would benefit the school instead of the student (with a disability). The question: “is the use of a calculator during a non-calculator part of an SOL math test considered a standard or non-standard test accommodation?” On the surface, the question appears to be nondescript; however, after further inquiry and discussion with the teacher, it became clear that the intent of the question was to ensure that the school makes the “right” decision when providing a test accommodation for this student.
Students with disabilities (under IDEA) are afforded the opportunity to utilize test accommodation to have better access to (and to better negotiate) test content on the SOLs. Furthermore, school-based Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams have the responsibility to ensure that students with disabilities educational needs are met with respect to selection of the best instructional and assessment supports and accommodations. Once these accommodations have been decided upon and are signed off on by the IEP team, teachers and assessment administrators are required by law to offer them to the student.
Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) does allow students the use of non-standard test accommodations if an IEP team decides it is best for the student; however, there may be a negative impact for the school or school district on state Accreditation and/or NCLB Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) calculations as a result. And this is what many school administrators fear.
The question of whether an accommodation is standard or non-standard should not have any bearing on the selection of the best available accommodation for the student. The bottom line is-and I strongly recommended this to the teacher-school teachers and administrators should do what is best for the student, not the school and school district as a whole.