Recall the Law

There is no definition or mention of these terms in IDEA regulations.  It is generally accepted that “Accommodations are changes in how a student accesses information and demonstrates learning.  Accommodations do not substantially change the instructional level, content, or performance criteria.  The changes are made in order to provide a student with equal access to learning and equal opportunity to show what he or she knows and can do.  Accommodations can include changes in the following:  presentation and/or response format and procedures;  instructional strategies;  time/scheduling; environment; and   equipment.”  and    “Modifications are changes in what a student is expected to learn. The changes are made to provide a student opportunities to participate meaningfully and productively along with other students in classroom and school learning experiences.  Modifications might include changes in the following:  instructional level; content; and  performance criteria.”

A Texas Education Agency document on accommodations says “Accommodations are changes to the materials, procedures, or techniques that allow a student with a disability to participate meaningfully in grade-level or course instruction. The use of accommodations occurs primarily during classroom instruction as educators use various instructional strategies to meet the needs of each student, thus allowing each student to maximize his or her academic potential.  In many instances, students use an accommodation only on a temporary basis while they are learning a new skill. In some cases, though, a student might require the accommodation throughout the school year or over several years.”

TEA’s Minimum Standards for the AAR (Academic Achievement Record) document says:  The V code means “A state-approved course in which content as described by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) has been modified as a result of an ARD committee decision.

This code is used only in the permanent records of students receiving special education services to indicate modifications in TEKS course content.  The code is not used to indicate accommodations in instructional methods.  It is not used to indicate where the course was taught such as in a resource, homebound, or self-contained setting.  It is not used to indicate instructional accommodations for students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”   1.16(b)

Chuck Noe’s Response:

In Texas a student with a disability can graduate under the Foundation High School Program and receive a regular diploma even with modification to the course content of one or more courses. However, a student cannot earn an endorsement if any of the courses taken for the endorsement(s) are modified. Also the student must pass the state assessment test(s).

Sometimes a school will say that a course cannot be modified, which is incorrect. Deciding what content to cut out and teaching the modified curriculum can be difficult and time consuming tasks for the ARD/IEP team and the teacher. Sometimes they want to avoid doing this. A school may offer a modified course to just those who “need” content modification. This can lead to a student getting more or less modification than they need, since the course may not be “individualized” to the student’s specific needs.

While accommodations can be provided for instruction and standardized testing, some accommodations are not allowed for standardized testing, since they would “invalidate” that testing. Accommodations selected should be based on the student’s individual needs. The TEA document on accommodations also notes that “In order to make accommodation decisions for students, educators should have knowledge of the TEKS and how a student performs in relation to them. Educators should also collect and analyze data pertaining to the use and effectiveness of accommodations (e.g., assignment/test scores with and without the accommodation, observational reports) so that informed educational decisions can be made for each student. By analyzing data, an educator can determine if the accommodation becomes inappropriate or unnecessary over time due to the student’s age or changing needs. Likewise, data can confirm for the educator that the student still struggles in certain areas and should continue to use the accommodation.”

At times, some of the ARD/IEP team will feel that there are “too many” accommodations being recommended for the IEP. As stated above the decision is to be based on the child’s individual needs and data. Sometimes this may require trying an accommodation to determine if it is appropriate. School attorneys advise schools against saying that an accommodation will be used “as needed”, since this is subjective and not specific.

Possible Parent Responses:

“I believe that this accommodation is appropriate/needed for my child for the reasons that I have stated.”

“The teacher has indicated that my child does better when ….. That supports the need for this accommodation.”

“This accommodation is considered an allowable procedure or material that any student may receive on the STAAR test. So I am requesting that he receive it during instruction, since it has been shown that it benefits him.”

“I am requesting that we try/or continuing using this accommodation. The teacher can gather data to help us determine whether it is needed to help them “maximize” their academic potential.”

“My child has demonstrated that they can learn some, but not all of the TEKS content. That is why I am requesting that the content be modifies/reduced to help him be more successful and remain in the general education classroom.”

“I understand that modifying the content means that my child will graduate under the minimum high school plan. I am willing to accept that, since I believe this is in his best interest and they current are or are not in high school.”