Do proper accommodation assignments make a difference? Examining the impact of improved decision making on scores for English language learners.

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2007


Does it matter if students are appropriately assigned to test accommodations? Using a randomized method, this study found that individual students assigned accommodations keyed to their particular needs were significantly more efficacious for English language learners (ELLs) and that little difference was reported between students receiving incomplete or not recommended accommodations and no accommodations whatsoever. A sample of third and fourth grade ELLs in South Carolina (N = 272) were randomly assigned to various types of test accommodations on a mathematics assessment. Results indicated that those students who received the appropriate test accommodations, as recommended by a version of a computerized accommodation taxonomy for ELLs (the selection taxonomy for English language learners accommodations; STELLA), had significantly higher test scores than ELLs who received no accommodations or those who received incomplete or not recommended accommodation packages. Additionally, students who were given no test accommodations scored no differently than those students that received accommodation packages that were incomplete or not recommended, given the students' particular needs and challenges. These findings are important in light of research and anecdotal reports that suggest a general lack of systematicity in the current system of assigning accommodations and a tendency to give all available accommodations regardless of individual child characteristics. The results also have important implications for how future accommodation research should be structured to determine the benefits of particular accommodations and accommodation packages. This study would suggest that control and treatment groups should be assembled based on specific student needs in order for direct comparisons to be made.