Accommodations and Modifications

Updated 7/31/13

Accommodations and Modifications are types of adaptations that affect instructional arrangement, lesson format, specific learning strategies and curricular goals. These adaptations are used to provide eligible students equal opportunity to obtain the same results, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement in the most integrated setting appropriate to the student's needs. Adaptations should not provide the student with an unfair advantage over others, or invalidate an assessment. The term "Accommodation" typically refers to adaptations which do not fundamentally alter or lower standards or expectations in either the instructional or assessment phases of a course of study, and allows the student to demonstrate mastery of performance standards. "Modifications" refer to adaptations which do alter or lower standards, resulting in a fundamental change in curriculum content or evidence of mastery. Modifications will necessitate an alternate assessment or modified grade, which may affect credit toward graduation.

Accommodations in General Education
Many accommodations are available to students in the general education program. Teachers, in consultation with the Student Study Team, parents, or independently may adapt curriculum activities, instruction or access in order to promote the learning of any child. Districts that use the Response to Intervention model of determining eligibility for special education will require that classroom accommodations be tried in the classroom before the child could be considered for special education eligibility.
Requirements in the Law for Students with Disabilities
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA '04) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require that individuals with disabilities are to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) which must occur in the least restrictive environment (LRE), with supplemental aids and services, when necessary. Aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate are required by Federal Regulation sections 300.39(b)(3) and 300.42.

Types of Classroom Adaptations

Classroom adaptations are selected individually for each child to reflect his or her learning and participation requirements. Following an assessment, the IEP team will determine whether adaptations are required for a student to access the core curriculum or alternate curriculum. Adaptations selected will afford the student the opportunity to demonstrate competence or participate, but are not designed to be guarantees that the student will achieve the same level of success as his or her non-disabled peers.
Classroom adaptations typically fall into one of nine types or categories, based upon the research of Jeff Sprague, Ph.D. Some of these fundamentally alter the mastery of course material and may require a change in the basis for grading.

Adapt the number of items that the learner is expected to learn or complete.

Example: Reduce the number of math problems required or the number to state capitols to memorize.

Adapt the time allotted or allowed for learning, task completing or testing.

Example: Individualize a timeline for completing a project or pace activities differently.


Level of Support
Increase the amount of personal assistance for a student.

Example: Assign peer buddies, teaching assistants, peer tutors, or cross-age tutors.

Adapt the way instruction is delivered to the learner.

Example: Use different visual aids, enlarge text, provide more concrete examples, provide hands-on activities, place students in cooperative groups.
Adapt the skill level, problem type, or the rules on how the learner may approach the work.

Example: Allow the use of a calculator to figure math problems, simplify task directions, change rules to accommodate learner needs.
Adapt how the student can respond to instruction.

Example: Allow verbal responses instead of written, use a communication book or device, allow student to show knowledge with hands-on materials.

Adapt the extent to which a learner is actively involved in the task.

Example: In geography, have the student hold the globe, while others are required to point out locations.
Alternate Goals
Adapt the goals or outcome expectations while using the same materials.

Example: In social science, expect the student to locate states on a map, while other students are learning to locate capitals, rivers, etc.
Substitute Curriculum
Provide different instruction and materials to meet the student's individual goals.

Example: During a language arts exam, the student is practicing computer skills in the computer lab.

If the IEP team determines that a student requires adaptations in a general education class, the IEP chairperson must provide the general education teacher(s) a copy of the IEP and any instruction the teacher(s) need(s) in implementing those adaptations. In some districts, the general education teacher may be required to document that he or she understands their specific responsibilities in implementing the student's IEP.

If students require the use of adaptations in the classroom, as reported in the Supplemental Aids and Services page of the IEP, some of those adaptations may also be allowed on the required State tests. For preschool students there are specific adaptations identified that increase the student's comfort or improve the availability of sensory input. These may include functional positioning, sensory support, and alternative response mode. For preschool students, these required Adaptations/Variations need to be documented in the IEP in order for them to participate in the Desired Results Development Profiled with Adaptations. If Adaptations/Variations are the only classroom adaptations the student requires, the student's participation in the state testing program would be considered to be "without accommodations."

Accommodations should be included if the student requires them to access the curriculum and demonstrate mastery of classroom instruction. If the student also requires these Accommodations on the State Testing and Reporting system, that should be noted on the Statewide Assessments page of the IEP using the dropdown "with testing accommodations" and documenting the specific accommodations required. These accommodations do not fundamentally alter the content of the tests or the report of the student's participation in the testing.

"Modifications" should be included if the student requires a fundamental alteration in the manner in which content standards are addressed and mastery is demonstrated. If modifications in this column are required the student would take the appropriate tests in the STAR system with these modifications, as noted by the dropdown "with testing modifications" on the Statewide Assessments page of the IEP. These modifications fundamentally alter the content of the test and the reporting of the test scores. Scores from tests that are modified are not included the school's percentage of students having taken the test. Schools are required to have 98% of their students take the standardized test, so few, if any of the students should have Modifications listed in this section of the IEP. If the student requires extensive modification in the classroom, the IEP team should consider having that student take the California Modified Assessment (CMA) tests or the California Alternative Performance Assessment (CAPA).

For a precise explanation of the types of adaptations allowed on the different tests in the State Testing Programs, go to:

All students with disabilities shall participate in state and district-wide assessment programs. The IEP team determines how a student will access assessments with or without accommodations, or access alternate assessments, consistent with state standards governing such determination

Information Currently Identified in the Document Library in SEIS:


Access to a word processor
Content outline
Provide hard copy of class notes
Allow oral response
Note taking assistance
Additional time to complete assignments
Use personal dictionary or thesaurus
Graphic organizers to plan writing
Allow extra time for written response
Use visual instructional aids

Books on tape
Use study sheet/key words highlighted
Use visual aids to add meaning
Allow students to highlight key points
Use small group instruction
Use pair or choral response
Present vocabulary visually
Gave examples of vocabulary in student language/primary language
Use study aids
Large print
Closed Caption



Display examples/models
Provide written and verbal directions
Break assignments into smaller tasks
Give extended time for completion of tasks
Allow oral responses
Sequence steps by numbering them
Give directions in small steps
Provide more space on sheet
Remind of due dates for long term projects
Use of calendar/planner

Use manipulatives
Give vocabulary cards in student language
Use math charts
Use computation aids
Use graph paper to align numbers
Use mnemonic devices
Use peer partner
Provide fact table for reference
Give more space on paper
Read word problems out loud
Break word problems into smaller steps
Use illustrations


Science/Social Studies

Provide study questions/sheet
Read aloud questions
Allow oral responses
Vary the test format
Give extra time for completion
Give test over more than one day
Allow small group testing
Simplify language on tests/quizzes
Quiet environment
Content outlines
Give content vocabulary in student language
Give content vocabulary with pictures
Use video to support text
Substitute projects for written work
Substitute worksheets for projects
Substitute worksheets for written work
Use a note taker



Set clearly defined standards
Limit number of defined standards
Use private signals to remind student
Preferential seating (Need to face the student, free from visual distractions, etc)
Monitor transitions carefully
Give student a job to divert student
Let student take a break/walk
Supervision during unstructured time
Cues/prompts/reminders of rules / procedures
Offer choices


Use peer tutoring
Pairs or small group work
Present one task at a time
Provide copy of class notes
Use visuals in oral presentation
Provide copy of projected material
Teach specific study skills
Allow varied student responses
Provide written and verbal instructions
Highlight key points within written material
Encourage student to repeat directions orally
Slow your pace
Frequent checks for understanding
Instructions/directions repeated or rephrased
Preferential seating (explain)

Accommodations in Grading
The IEP team must determine whether the student's grades in core curriculum areas will be based upon standards that apply to non-disabled students, or upon an alternative standard. If the team determines that an alternative standard will be used, a description of that standard or accommodation needs to be noted in the IEP document. Some options for grading when accommodations are applicable include:

  • Grades based upon performance given stated accommodations
  • Pass/Fail grades only
  • Grades in mainstreamed classes to be assigned by Special Education Teacher
  • Grades assigned collaboratively between Core and Special Education Teachers
  • Grades based on assignments completed in class
  • Grading by individual contract with core subject teacher

Report card grades should provide accurate feedback for the student and the parent on where the student's accomplishments fall on the continuum of the curriculum expectations. Many districts now use standards-based report cards in the lower grades.
When grading a student with special needs using a standards-based report card, a teacher must be very clear that she is rating the student compared with non-disabled peers.
While report cards are indicators of student progress that are distributed to students and parents only, transcripts are permanent records that are shared with other agencies. Transcripts may not reflect that students were enrolled in Special Education courses. They may indicate that the curriculum was modified, only if the school offers modified courses to non-disabled students. Course titles may reflect that the subject matter is not the same as other courses, such as "Practical Math," or "Everyday English.


State Education Code Reference: 56205 (a)
Federal References: 20 USC Section 1412 (a) (16)


Click here to download and print "Procedures Guide-Accommodations and Modifications"