Testing Accommodations Research and Decision Making: The Case of "Good" Scores Being Highly Valued But Difficult to Achieve for All Students

WCER Working Paper No. 2002-1

Stephen N. Elliott, Ryan J. Kettler, Brian C. McKevitt

April 2002, 21 pp.

ABSTRACT: The inclusion of students with disabilities in assessment is deemed critical to improve the quality of educational opportunities for these students and to provide meaningful and useful information about students' performance to the schools and communities where they are educated. This inclusion raises important questions, however, concerning the appropriateness of common performance standards and assessments for students with disabilities, the appropriate accommodations to use on tests, the effects of these accommodations on the validity of assessment results, and the reporting of scores when accommodations have been used. In this article, we (a) review definitional and legal issues associated with testing accommodations, (b) discuss validity issues that confront educators who must make decisions about the use and likely effects of testing accommodations, and (c) summarize the results of four experimental studies we have conducted that examined the statistical effects of accommodations on test scores of students with and without disabilities. The article concludes that educators collectively need to (a) have knowledge of the abilities and disabilities of the students they are testing, (b) be knowledgeable about the students' instructional accommodations and the state's or district's testing guidelines, (c) be familiar with the test's item content and format, (d) understand the concept of validity and what it means to invalidate a test score, and (e) have knowledge of any previous accommodations successfully used with the students. In summary, educators are required to make professional judgments about which testing accommodations are most likely to be valid for individual students prior to testing. This is relatively difficult for most educators and very important work because "good" test scores are hard to come by and highly valued.

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keywords: Testing Accommodations; Validity of Test Scores; Large-Scale Assessments