Accommodation: Small group setting.
Premise: Big rooms and more students provide more anxiety and thus taking the student and placing them either in one-on-one setting or a small group will relieve that anxiety.
Debunked: Most often the anxiety the student is experiencing does not come from the setting. In fact, I would argue that most of the time the classroom is the preferred setting if it is for anxiety purposes, after all, this is the room that should be a safe-haven for students in a community they know. Not so in the case of a random conference room or even small closet. Some then argue the small group setting is for the quiet so the student in question can think better, except that doesn’t hold up either since students are absolutely not allowed to make any noise during the test. In a “perfect” test environment the only thing you should hear is the rustling of pencils writing, that’s it.
Accommodation: Read the instructions aloud.
Premise: Student who struggle with reading will know what to do.
Debunked: Students who struggle with reading are not going to get much help from someone reading the instructions when they cannot proceed to fully read and comprehend the actual problems. While math problems are also allowed to be read aloud in some cases, it still boils down to comprehension. Chances are if that student has this accommodation they have had other accommodations in the classroom to be successful learners, none of which are allowed during the test. But read it aloud, that we will do so you have more time to sit and ponder what you do not know or do not understand.
Accommodation: Extended time.
Premise: Students that process more slowly or have anxiety should be allowed unlimited time.
Debunked: I love this one. Nothing like giving a frustrated student as much time as they want to take the test that they are frustrated by. I still think most of my students that have been given this accommodation end up taking the least amount of time. Not all but most. If you do not understand the test or the question unlimited time will most often do nothing for you. That is like being presented with a test in French except you don’t speak the language, but hey, you have unlimited time to figure it out!
Accommodation: Break the test up.
Premise: For students who cannot focus for long periods of time you can spread the test out.
Debunked: Again, why continue to torture a child by prolonging the frustration. When a child is not successful on the test it seldom has anything to do with how long they can focus but rather the content itself. When no other help is offered such as breaking the problems apart (that is not allowed) how are we really helping?
So in the end, we sit with accommodations that do nothing to solve the problem; the test itself. We speak often of tests and how destructive they can be to students, and yet, we band-aid the harm of the test by trying to set up better accommodations. In the end, they change very little; the test itself flies in the face of how we instruct and how children work through problems. The test will therefore never be an accurate measure of how much a child actually knows within a learning community but only a measure of who can focus the longest and regurgitate facts. And is that really worth testing?