What Accommodations Are Available for Students with an IEP or 504 Plan?
For students to receive accommodations, they must be first determined to be an eligible student with a disability according to federal law. Then, accommodations must be documented on the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. This document should be drafted collaboratively with the student's teachers and parents, and ensure that the student will have the supports necessary to succeed. Accommodations that are approved for use on the FSA should be those that are normally used within the classroom setting. Any practice tests should also be taken utilizing the accommodations.
When considering accommodations, the IEP or 504 team should ensure that the accommodations are sufficient to allow the student to accurately demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter. However, the accommodations should not provide the student with an unfair advantage on the FSA.
Some common accommodations that may be provided include:
- Extended time
- Small group
- One test item per page
- Large print
- Pencil-and-paper instead of computer-based testing
- Typing or transcribing of responses
- Closed captioning for audio passages
- Assistive technology necessary to access a computer
- Reading aloud of mathematics questions
- Frequent breaks
- ASL signing of directions and prompts
- Color transparencies
- Clarification of test directions
- Encouraging and motivating students
- Permission for a student to read aloud to himself/herself
Some students may require a unique accommodation not found on this list. These unique accommodations are more unusual, as they are highly specialized, and require modifications of test materials or other aspects of testing. These accommodations must be requested by the IEP team, and approved by the commissioner of the Department of Education.
What Accommodations Are Available for English Language Learners?
Students who are identified as English language learners (ELLs) also participate in the FSA. School districts should identify students who are in this category. The following accommodations are common for English language learners:
- Testing in a small group with an English as a second language or heritage language teacher
- Answering questions about directions in the student's first language
- Limited assistance in the student's first language for directions, prompts, and test items. This is dependent on the type of test.
- Word-to-word translation dictionary
What If These Accommodations Are Not Sufficient?
If it is documented in a student's IEP that the student does not have a formal system of communication and is working at a pre-academic level, students may instead participate in the Florida Standards Alternate Assessment (FSAA). The teachers of these students will submit an online portfolio measuring students' achievement levels in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies at three points during the academic year. These portfolios measure the progress students are making towards access points. Access points cover academic goals that students with severe cognitive disabilities are expected to meet. It should be expected that only a very small percentage of students will take part in the FSAA as opposed to the FSA.
Preparing for the FSA
Receiving appropriate accommodations can help students to do their best on the FSA. In addition, parents can help students prepare for the types of content they will see on these tests. The state of Florida offers practice tests through its FSA portal. Parents can also help their child to work through the FSA Study Guides and FSA Practice Tests available at Study.com. These materials can help parents and students to see their strengths and weaknesses, and to make improvements in their test scores with continual practice.