Posts Tagged ‘Accommodations’

Prepare Ahead for STAAR and EOC Testing Accommodation Decisions

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author:  Judy Butler, Education Specialist, Dyslexia and 504


Parents and teachers prefer to provide for a student’s educational  needs without having to consider that the child may have a disability.  For many students with both mental and physical impairments, particularly within the elementary grades, referrals for Section 504 eligibility determination may be avoided or delayed if the student is able to receive RtI, health services, or dyslexia services outside of Section 504 or Special Education identification.  With the increased rigor of End of Course exams in high school, districts and parents may suddenly realize that students will face serious roadblocks to graduation and college admission without access to accommodations available only to students identified as Section 504 or Special Education with a documented need written into an Individualized Accommodation Plan or IEP.   According to the currently posted TEA Accommodations Triangle, , a student must need the accommodations within the classroom, and use them routinely and effectively as well as meet very specific eligibility criteria.


Many of the new STAAR Accommodations are available to any students, students within RtI, 504 only, or Special Education, but some, like Spelling Assistance on Reading Assessment short answers and Written Composition, and Calculative Devices are not available to only 504 or Special Education students.  Additionally, an Oral/Signed Administration accommodation is not available to any student, unless that student has also been identified with dyslexia and is in RtI, or is a Section 504 or Special Education student with dyslexia or has evidence of reading difficulties.


This suddenly realized fear that a child might need an accommodation to pass, but does not currently meet the eligibility criteria, can cause panic in the hearts of parents of struggling students when they consider the consequences to high school graduation, documentation to support the need for SAT/ACT accommodations, college admissions and access to services for students with disabilities at the college level.  This nagging fear can cause panic in the minds of school administrators when they consider the impact that failing STAAR or EOC scores will have on state and federal accountability measures as well as the educational planning and resources needed to remediate student achievement.  This sudden realization may also result in larger numbers of students being referred for Section 504 or Special Education evaluation a month, two weeks, or even days ahead of STAAR and EOC testing dates.   The time involved with gathering the data along with documentation insuring accommodations have been routinely and effectively used in the classroom and are usually a logistical impossibility within these last minute time parameters.


Fear of anticipated student low performance or failure on STAAR or EOCs should never be the sole cause for initiating a Section 504 or Special Education evaluation to determine need for accommodations.  However, it is possible that a disabled student  who may have survived their school career without being identified as Section 504 or Special Ed eligible will now need documented accommodations due to the following circumstances:  teachers freely made accommodations,  the student was able to receive the Dyslexia Bundled Accommodations without being Section 504 in previous years of TAKS testing, the physical or mental disability now limits a major life activity due to increased expectations or limited time parameters, lack of access to effective interventions, or even changes in the student’s health conditions.


Below are a few tips for making sure that students who truly need testing accommodations receive them long before STAAR and EOC test dates arrive:

-Establish and communicate district policies to both parents and teachers of all grade levels about referral processes and the types of information needed to warrant suspicion of a disability.

  • Public school staff may access a free Region 13 online workshop entitled: “Understanding Basic 504 Procedures and Services:  A Campus Training” by registering with Workshop ID:   FA1224572
  • Contact your regional Education Service Center 504 Specialist to aid with establishing district procedures and parent education regarding Section 504.

-For students within RtI, be sure that RtI teams are collecting progress monitoring data and referring students to 504 or Special Education evaluations when more intensive services and protections are warranted.

-Be sure that English Language Learners are not being overlooked.  Specialized training is needed by assessment personnel to determine if poor achievement is due to the process of English language acquisition, or is also impaired by a mental or physical impairment.  This is especially true if the impairment is dyslexia.  Contact your regional educational specialist in dyslexia if you need to contract with a Bilingual Assessment Specialist.

-Educational need is not required to trigger the need for Section 504 referral.  A child need not have failing grades or previously failing test scores before being evaluated for Section 504.

-Remember that there is no standard set of accommodations for any specific type of disability.  Both classroom and testing accommodation decisions should be based on evidence of student need on a case by case basis, and documented within that student’s Individualized Accommodation Plan or IEP.  The TEA Accommodations Triangle provides specific guidance for how the need and effectiveness for many accommodations can be determined.

-Consult with Assistive Technology Specialists, within district or Education Service Center regional specialists, for tools in how to determine the best low or high-tech device for each student.  Experiment with the student to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology.

-Remember that providing unnecessary accommodations within the classroom and in testing situations can be damaging to a student and their future educational success.

-Reference Region 13’s new “Scaffolding Accommodations” guide, available through the Product section of our website:  when making and documenting accommodation decisions within an RtI, 504, or ARD committee meeting.

Section 504 FAQ

Friday, August 24th, 2012

 Authors:  Susan Patteson and Judy Butler


What is the purpose of Section 504?

Section 504’s main emphasis in the schools is equal educational opportunity, which is mainly accomplished by providing appropriate classroom accommodations to eligible disabled students. Section 504 also requires that eligible students are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in school extracurricular and nonacademic activities.

Section 504 is a nondiscrimination statute. The results of the disability must be that the student is unable to achieve equal access or benefit from the school’s program and activities as compared to a nondisabled peer. The existence of a physical or mental impairment does not mean that the child automatically qualifies under Section 504.

Who is disabled under Section 504?

An eligible Section 504 student is one with:

  1. a physical or mental impairment
  2. an impairment that substantially limits learning or another major life activity

The major life activities that were previously provided as examples were breathing, walking, seeing, hearing and learning. Through the ADA Amendment Act, Congress has provided examples of additional major life activities including major bodily functions (immune system, normal cell growth) as well as sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. The major life activities in Section 504 regulations have always been meant to be examples and not an exclusive or exhaustive listing.

Unlike IDEA, Section 504 does not list a few disabilities (each with strict eligibility criteria) which result in eligibility. Instead, a broad formula is used to include many more disabilities. Specific physical or mental impairments are not listed in the regulations “because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list .”  “ Department of Education”, last modified 3/17/2011,

American Disabilities Act and the Amendments Act of 2008

A person is substantially limited if he/she is: “Unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform,” 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j).(1)(i).   Within the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, 122 STAT.3554 Public Law 110-325-Sept. 2008, Congress found that the current EOC ADA regulations defining the term “substantially limits” as “significantly restricted” are inconsistent with congressional intent, by expressing too high a standard.  Additionally, 122 STAT.3556 Public Law 110-325 –Sept. 25, 2008 states that “substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures.”  Mitigating measures may be summarized to include medication, medical supplies or equipment, use of assistive technology, reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services, or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.

What is the role of Section 504 in the public schools?

34CFR 104.33(1) of Section 504 requires schools to provide a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to eligible students and the Free Appropriate Public Education and related aids and services are based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements of Sec  104.34, 104.35, and 104.36.  These sections of the federal educational code provide guidelines for how public schools (or recipients of federal financial assistance) will evaluate and re-evaluate, determine eligibility, placement and setting, and implement procedural safeguards.

It also requires non-discrimination in non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities (the non-FAPE activities) as well as compliance with Section 504 procedural requirements (notice, access to relevant records, opportunity for impartial due process hearings and a review process).

What is FAPE ?

A Free Appropriate Public Education is defined under 34 CFR 104.33.  In summary, this federal statute of Title 34 of the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that each qualified handicapped person residing in the recipient’s jurisdiction receives an education that is:

  • free, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s handicap
  • appropriate, either regular or special education and related aids and services, and
  • provided within the handicapped person’s Least Restrictive Environment.

ESC Region XIII’s online module “Understanding Basic 504 Procedures and Services: A Sample Campus Training Module” may be accessed by registering through our E-Campus system using Workshop # FA1224572.  This is a free, soon to be published online module that will assist district and campus staff in developing their own Section 504 processes to ensure FAPE and their adherence to Section 504 procedures.


ESC Region XIII Section 504 Site:

Judy Butler ( or 512.919.5168)

Susan Patteson (  or 512.919.5401)

Text of the federal statutes 34 CFR 104 of Section 504 and the ADA Amendments Act may be accessed through the Appendix of:

Texas Education Agency, “The Dyslexia Handbook-Revised 2007, Updated 2010: Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders.”

Technology Tools Aligned to Type 2 Accommodations for Spelling

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Are you looking for technology tools aligned to Type 2 Accommodations for spelling? This matrix lists multiple options and provides live links for further information about each tool. You may access further information at


Download the Technology Tools Aligned to Type 2 Accommodations in Spelling PDF document below.

Also, don’t miss the  Lunch and Learn FREE Technolgy Webinar

Topic:  Type 2 Technology Tools for Spelling

Date: Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Time:  12 noon to 1pm

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:





Monday, December 12th, 2011

The “Dyslexia Bundled Accommodations” will no longer be a term applicable to STAAR administration. Instead,  students with dyslexia, dyslexia characteristics, and reading difficulties may be eligible for a wide range of accommodations on all content areas of the STAAR and STAAR End of Course assessments.  Considering the variability in the severity of difficulty students have with basic reading skills and test performance in all grades, and who may or may not be identified with dyslexia, this change in TEA policy makes sense.  TEA continues to engage in the process of establishing the most appropriate testing accommodation policies for students with dyslexia, but we can be relatively confident of the process required for students to access 2012 STAAR Accommodations.   First and foremost, the student must use the accommodations routinely in classroom or testing situations.  The accommodation decisions and plans will be made and documented by:

  • an RtI or Student Support Team if the student has been identified as dyslexic (but does not receive 504 or special education services),
  • a Section 504 Committee, if the student has dyslexia or has evidence of a reading difficulty as determined by a Section 504 committee (documented within an Individualized Accommodation Plan), or
  • an ARD Committee, if the student is reading disabled with dyslexic characteristics or has evidence of a reading difficulty (documented within an Individualized Educational Plan).

Additionally, LPAC committees/members are required to participate in any of these committees’ decision-making processes when accommodation decisions are being made for students who are ELL and who have disabilities.

Students meeting the eligibility criteria as determined by any of these three committees may have access to oral administration of question and answer choices for the reading passages (no more reading of proper nouns, and NEVER oral reading of passages).  These accommodations on the STAAR Reading test have now been extended to include students taking STAAR English I, II, and III assessments.   Oral Administration of test question and answer choices (including reading of tables, graphs, etc.) in the subject areas of Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies is also an allowable accommodation for eligible students with dyslexia.  For STAAR Writing in 4th, 7th, and English I-III, writing prompts ONLY may be read aloud to eligible dyslexic students.  Documentation for these Type 2 accommodations should be maintained within the student’s cumulative folder, and Type 2 accommodations will also need to be documented on the student’s STAAR test forms.  Additionally, the level of reading support also needs to be determined and documented on the student’s IAP or IEP as either:

  1. reading parts of the question and answer choices at student request, or
  2. reading all question and answer choices throughout the test section.

Reminder:  It is permissible to provide ANY 3rd grade student periodic reading assistance on the Mathematics section of the STAAR. This is not considered to be an accommodation.  Should the 3rd grade student need the Mathematics question and answer choices read in their entirety, this level of accommodation would be considered a Type 2 Accommodation and should be documented as such on the student’s test form.

The appropriate committee may also decide that the student needs extended time, allowable until the end of the school day.  Current verbal guidance from TEA (although not final or posted on the Accommodations Triangle) states that extended time for a 2nd day of administration will require an Accommodation Request Form and only in extreme cases of need will there be approval.

For specific student eligibility criteria and further accommodation guidelines for calculator use, math manipulatives, dictionary use, and supplemental aids, click on the live links on TEA’s Accommodations Triangle posted at the following web address:   

The Optional Test Administration Procedures and Materials document link which specifies allowable accommodations for all students has currently been removed from the above Accommodations Resource webpage and is being revised.  One possible revision will be that small group or individualized test administration will not be an allowable accommodation for all students, but will be a Type 2 Accommodation needing a committee’s decision and documentation for students meeting specific eligibility criteria.   Keep abreast of TEA updates by continuing to access the above Accommodations Resource webpage.

STAAR Dyslexia Accommodations Nov 2011

Doing More With Less: Make MS Word Work for YOU (and your students, too)

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I haven’t met one teacher yet this year who doesn’t feel stretched beyond thin by trying to meet instructional demands with less resources.  With money being tight and the continued and important need to differentiate for diverse learning needs, if I told you that there were tools within Microsoft Word (therefore free) that would make YOUR life easier AND also help out students, you’d want to read on, right?

Okay, well, so as not to overwhelm with every helpful feature Microsoft Word offers, in this posting let’s focus on MS Word’s tools for reading.


  • There are students in your class that are not quite reading on grade level.
  • There are students in your class for whom English is not their first language.
  • There are students in your class who, albeit very infrequently, are off task.
  • There are students in your class who might be absent.
  • There are students in your class who might be pulled out for various reasons or activities.
  • Your students have the occasional need to read. J
  • There are students in your class who require directions, tests, or assignments to be read aloud.
  • You have students who need these directions, tests or assignments read aloud and repeated multiple times.
  • You wish it didn’t take so much man-power to read aloud to students.
  • You have a teacher computer.
  • You have Microsoft Word.
  • You use Microsoft Word documents (handouts, tests/quizzes, templates, tables, etc.).
  • You have some ability to use a computer lab or mobile laptop carts.
  • You remember something about there being technology TEKS and students being 21st century learners.
  • You have a sense of humor.

Insert Voice/Sound Object

The first tool I want to share is called “Insert Voice/Sound Object.”  Teachers (and students) who use the Insert Voice/Sound feature within MS Word have been extremely happy with how easy and powerful it is.  Its functions allow any document to be turned into a “talking” assignment or test and can free up the time staff spends reading aloud to students.  It records for up to one minute, but you can insert voice comments as many times as needed to read a test in its entirety.  I actually recommend that for tests, separate voice recordings are done for each question and each answer choice so that a student can easily replay a segment without having to listen to previous questions or answers.

Advantages to using technology to support the accommodations already being provided are that duplication of effort from staff are reduced; and maybe more importantly, it allows students to practice and gain independence.  After all, in college, students will not have an assistant to read to them.  Additionally, students can listen at their own pace, have text re-read as often as needed, and possibly be able to remain in class to take a test.  This is what full access to the curriculum is all about.

I should mention that inserting voice comments will require a headset with a microphone.  (A Logitech USB headset with microphone is easily available and around $20.)

Finally, the applications for inserting voice comments into Word documents are more robust than described here.  An example of another use might be to copy and paste text, articles, or passages from other sources (Internet, PDF, etc.) and imbed guiding questions in frequent chunks, or reminders to students for use of cognitive or summarization strategies.  Get creative!  While it may seem like more work up front, it will certainly pay off; you’ll have this document for as long as needed and for as many students as needed.  The voice file stays with the document and can be emailed, “saved as,” and transferred or stored without problem.

To learn how to Insert Audio/Voice into Word Documents view these videos:

Word 2007-

Word 2010 –


The second tool that I think is essential for differentiation and freeing up teacher time spent reading aloud to students is the free downloadable text-to-speech plug-in called WordTalk (  In contrast to a human voice reading text, this is a software/computerized speech that also has the ability to highlight each word that is being read. Additionally, it contains a talking dictionary, talking synonym finder and can convert text-to-mp3 so that students can listen to the document on their portable mp3 player (iPod, etc.).  The WordTalk plug-in creates an “Add-In” tab with a toolbar that offers customization of male/female computerized voices, speed, volume, and color of highlighting bar.  All of the advantages discussed earlier apply, with the added bonus that no teacher prep time is needed in order to create a talking test/handout that is done in Word (or copied and pasted into Word).  The drawbacks that might be encountered are that some students don’t like the computerized voice and that some words are mispronounced by the program.  Definitely download this to try on your home computer and then be sure to ask your IT department to check it out and consider putting it on the district network so that any student anywhere can access this support if needed.

Don’t Forget These

I was in an inclusion classroom recently where students were answering comprehension questions using evidence found in the text.  The teacher was leading the discussion as a whole group activity, projecting the questions from her computer (in a Word document) onto her white board.  The kids were engaged and thinking, pairing and sharing, but if we wanted to easily layer in extra supports or perhaps provide necessary accommodations, we could consider options such as:

  • Enlarging the font  (this is 14)
  • Using sans-serif fonts (simpler, clearer) [This is Calibri]
  • Increasing the spacing between the lines (this is 1.5)
  • Bolding or highlighting key words/phrases
  • Inserting graphics to support comprehension or memory of important info for a test (Clip Art, shapes)
  • Using graphic organizers such as SmartArt or the templates in Word:

  •  After modeling these features during class discussions, encourage or assign a student helper to take over.
  •  The assignment could then be printed or emailed to a student as a copy of classroom notes or to use as a study guide.

Take a moment to compare the text immediately above with the Times New Roman font and format this post began with and see which one best grabs your attention and is easiest to read.  I hope at least one of these features might be helpful.  Happy Teaching!

To learn how to use these features use: