It is important to ensure that student performance is not unduly influenced by student disabilities or linguistic/cultural characteristics that are unrelated to the content being assessed. Accommodations are adjustments to the testing situation, test format, or test administration that provide equitable access during assessments for students with disabilities who are eligible under IDEA, students with Section 504 Plans, and students who are ELLs.


  • provide equitable access during assessments
  • reduce construct-irrelevant variance which may arise due to a student’s disability, 504 need, or English language proficiency
  • do not change the construct being assessed
  • do not compromise the integrity or validity of the test
  • result in valid, meaningful test results

Accommodations are intended to reduce or even eliminate the effects of a student’s disability and/or English language proficiency level; accommodations do not reduce learning expectations. The accommodations provided to a student must be the same for classroom instruction, classroom assessments, and district and state assessments. Some accommodations may be appropriate for instructional use; however, they may not be appropriate for use on a standardized assessment. There may be consequences (e.g., lowering or not counting a student’s test score) for the use of some accommodations during state assessments. It is very important for educators to become familiar with Maryland policies regarding accommodations during assessments. The Maryland Accommodations Manual provides more detailed information about state policies.

Test Accommodations for ELLS with Disabilities

Testing accommodations are changes in the way a student is given a test or asked to respond to test questions, and they are meant to offset challenges caused by a disability without changing what the test measures. Testing accommodations provide students with disabilities an opportunity to demonstrate their English language proficiency in a way that is similar to students without disabilities without changing what the test measures, thus invalidating the test results. In other words, appropriate accommodations level the playing field for students with disabilities, providing them an equitable opportunity to demonstrate what they can do.

ACCESS for ELLs is an English language proficiency assessment; as such, it is a tool used to assess the construct of ELLs’ receptive and productive skills in English. Because it focuses on language rather than content area knowledge and skills, some accommodations that might be appropriate for the classroom or content areas tests should not be used with ACCESS for ELLs as they will invalidate the construct.

WIDA is releasing Alternate ACCESS for ELLs in March, 2012. This English language proficiency assessment is designed specifically for ELLs who have significant cognitive disabilities.