4 Ways to Get Students to Use Their Testing Accommodations

As a special educator this is my favorite time of the year! Hopefully the image above has given you a hint to my sarcasm. I strongly despise this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to be aware of what our students know and what they need to work on. But subjecting them to a test that we know and sadly many of the students already know they won’t do well on is just cruel and unusual punishment.

Fortunately students on IEPs and 504 plans receive accommodations for testing. Recently my sister, who runs an art education program, Palette of Expressions, in California and I recorded a video on Facebook Live. We talked about IEPs, 504s and state testing. You can watch that video here.

For those wondering, an IEP is an Individual Education Program. It contains goals for a child that has qualified for special education services. 504 plans were born of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which called for anyone with a disability not be denied or excluded from any benefits of a program receiving Federal funds.

Students who have IEPs or 504 plans can have testing accommodations that can include extended time (up to a whole school day), small group testing, one on one testing, frequent breaks and a reader for directions and questions to list a few. Having these accommodations in place is helpful to a student and puts them in a position to be successful while testing. Many students thrive with these in place but there are some students who don’t take advantage of them. I have seen students finish a state test in 20 minutes that they have 105 minutes to complete without their accommodations. I’m always telling my students to use their accommodations, but it is easier said than done.

Here are four ways to get your students to use their testing accommodations:

  • Educate them about the test: Many times students are told you have to do well or ……(fill in your response; most of the time it is something like you won’t move on to the next grade. Unfortunately, information like that can have the opposite effect. Students can develop an attitude of well, I’m just going to fail so forget it and not try at all. Make sure they understand what the test is about and why they are taking it (although some teachers don’t understand why, but that’s a post for another day!
  • Encourage them: Let them know that they can do it. Encourage them to do their best. I give my students notes with my Bitmoji on it as a source of encourage. They have messages like “I believe in you” and “Do your best!”
  • Model the accommodations: We can tell students things all the time. It can go in one ear and out the other. Or they act like they understand but they really don’t and they are afraid to say anything. Show students what each of their accommodations look like. They need to see what you do to use extended time.
  • Acknowledge their accomplishments: When I have a student who shows that they have taken their time on a test, I recognize that. Let them know that you notice and you are proud of them for trying. Celebrate with a fun day, maybe a movie or play some games.

If you are still testing, I wish you and your students the best!