Common Test-Taking Accommodations Questioned

Among the most common accommodations provided for students with ADHD are extended time and frequent breaks when taking standardized tests. But how helpful are those accommodations?  Perhaps not at all, according to a recent study.

The study, examining the impact of various accommodations on the test scores of students in grades 3 through 8 with ADHD, found that none were associated with higher scores. The other accommodations studied were reducing distractions, using a reader for portions of the test, and allowing the use of a calculator.

Led by Alison Esposito Pritchard, a clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, researchers compared the Maryland School Assessment test results for students with ADHD in grades 3 through 8 who were given accommodations to a control group that was not given accommodations.

Although the study did not explore why the accommodations had no impact, Prichard (or Pritchard, as before) conjectured about possible explanations in discussing the findings with  Education Week:

Students with ADHD may not be taught how to effectively use accommodations such as extended testing time. The researchers also could not say if certain accommodations meant the same thing to all students. For example, a particularly diligent student may have used all the extra test time offered, while another student may have chosen to rush through. Or one student may have been given a read-aloud accommodation by a computer, while another may have had the test read aloud by a teacher.

“It’s up to the child as to whether they want to make use of the accommodations that they’re given,” she said. “We can’t say that extended time”—to use one example—”is ineffective, but we can [say] that it’s not working the way we’re doing it right now.”

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