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A model for ensuring success in the general education classroom using adaptations and accommodations.

Abstract

Recent educational reform legislation has mandated that all students, including those with disabilities, have access to and participate in the general education curriculum so that they can meet the same educational standards as all children. This article reviews the educational accountability provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) and presents a five-part model for identifying and providing adaptations and accommodations for students with disabilities in general education settings. The article utilizes a case study format to describe adaptations, accommodations, and modifications utilizing Setting/Environment; Selection/ Identification of Materials; Presentation of Materials/Lesson; Response Mode; and Assessment/Evaluation of Student Knowledge as a rubric for selecting adaptations, accommodations, and modifications for instruction.

Introduction

One of the major issues facing educators today is how to ensure the successful inclusion of students with disabilities in standards-based educational programs within the general curriculum. For years, educators, parents, policymakers, legislators, and the business community have demanded all students, including those with disabilities, exit high school having mastered high academic content standards (Barth, Haycock, Huang, & Richardson, 2001; National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). In response to this call for increased accountability, federal legislation has required states to develop standards and performance indicators, holding students accountable for learning academic content that will prepare them to enter the workforce and to pursue further learning. Specifically, Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994), Title I of Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (IASA), both passed in 1994, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 require that states implement educational programs and accountability measures that will result in meaningful employment and independent living for their graduates. Mastering high academic content standards required by the general education curriculum may be a daunting task for students with disabilities. However, this task can be accomplished by providing adaptations, accommodations, and program modifications to the general education curriculum, along with supports to the general education teacher, to assist the student in acquiring mastery of required content.

The purpose of this article is to provide (1) a brief description of the educational accountability requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997; and (2) a framework for identifying and providing adaptations, accommodations, and program modifications to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities who may be experiencing difficulty achieving proficiency with the academic standards established by the states.

Standards-Based Reform Legislation: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA)

In 1997, the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) clarified the responsibility of states in ensuring that students with disabilities participate in the general curriculum and receive instruction designed to provide for their attainment of content-related standards. IDEA added several definitions and provisions to ensure that students with disabilities participate in the general education curriculum with adaptations, accommodations, and modifications.

First, IDEA added a definition of supplementary aids and services and specially designed instruction. Supplementary aids and services are defined as "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 nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate" (Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities program and preschool grants, 1999). Specially designed instruction is defined as "adapting, as appropriate to the needs of [a child with a disability], the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction" to address the unique needs of the child in order "to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children" (Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities program and preschool grants, 1999).

Second, IDEA added several components to the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) to enhance the student's involvement in the general education curriculum. Each student's IEP must include (a) a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child or on behalf of the child; (b) a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child; (c) a statement of any individual modifications in the administration of State or district-wide assessments of student achievement that are needed in order for the child to participate in the assessment; and (d) the projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of the services and modifications. (Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities program and preschool grants, 1999).

Third, the IEP team must now include at least one of the child's regular education teachers, if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment (Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities program and preschool grants, Section 300.344). The regular education teacher of a student with a disability, as a member of the IEP team, must, to the extent appropriate, participate in the development, review, and revision of the child's IEP, including assisting in the determination of supplementary aids and services, program modifications, or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child (Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities program and preschool grants, Section 300.346(d)). The student's IEP must be accessible to each of the child's teachers and service providers, and they must be informed of his or her specific responsibilities under the IEP and of the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child (Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities program and preschool grants, 1999).

In order to meet the requirements of IDEA regarding adaptations, accommodations, and program modifications, teachers must identify and provide those supports that will enhance the student's learning of the educational standards. The next section presents a model for identifying and providing adaptations and accommodations during instruction to facilitate their mastery of the prescribed content standards.

A Model for Identifying and Providing Adaptations and Accommodations

There is no comprehensive, finite list of possible adaptations, accommodations, or modifications, though many commercially prepared materials suggest numerous strategies (Williams, 2001). Instead, since each student possesses a different constellation of learning and behavioral characteristics, educators must identify the array of adaptations and accommodations that will work best for each specific individual student in each particular learning activity. For example, it is possible that the student may need a calculator for the math class, carbonized note-taker paper for lectures in social studies, an advanced organizer with the outline of topics for his biology lecture, but no specific program modifications for his drafting class. Students in elementary school may benefit from viewing a video, participating in a role-play, or going on a field trip, rather than listening to a lecture or reading a passage in a text.

The following rubric suggests there are five areas that teachers should address during instruction to maximize the learning and behavioral characteristics of the student. This rubric is intended to provide a framework around which these instructional decisions can be made to assist students with disabilities master the specific content that will be addressed throughout his school day. The paradigm is applicable to students throughout their K-12 experiences, regardless of the student's specific disability or grade level. The five areas that should be considered are as follows:

Setting/Environment What changes will you, the teacher, make to the instructional (classroom) setting to assist the student with learning the material? For example, will the student be seated in a study carrel, at the front of the room, away from the distractions of the pencil sharpener or pets in the room? Does the student work best in a quiet location or with a group of peers from which he can benefit from their exchange of ideas?

Selection/Identification of Materials What changes will you, the teacher, make to the materials used for the lesson to accommodate learning and behavioral characteristics of each student? For example, does the student need materials that include pictures, graphics, tables, or diagrams to assist his learning, rather than just print? Does the student need material presented through electronic means, such as a computer, so he can control the pace of instruction?

Presentation of Materials or Lesson What changes will you, the teacher, make as to how you present the material to ensure that the learning and behavior characteristics of each student will be met? Does the student need to have material highlighted in a text in order to focus on the material? Does he or she need to have material presented through an action-oriented vehicle such as a role play, skit, or video presentation?

Response Mode How will you, the teacher, vary how you have the student demonstrate that s/he knows the content of the material? For example, will the student demonstrate his or her mastery of a concept through a written exercise, through the performance of a song, or through the telling of a story? Will the student convey his understanding through a journal, response cards, or a simulation?

Assessment/Evaluation of Student Knowledge How will you, the teacher, vary your assessment or evaluation of your lesson to ensure that you have taken into account the learning and behavioral characteristics of every student? Will you use an on-demand, paper-and-pencil test? Will this test be an objective (multiple choice, true-false, matching items), or a subjective (short answer or essay questions) test, or a combination? Will you use portfolios, discussions, projects or other forms of authentic assessments to assess mastery of content?

For each of these categories, each student will benefit from an analysis by the teacher of his/her particular learning and behavioral characteristics, the specific demands of the standards-based content being addressed, and the types of assessments that will be administered to ascertain mastery. As indicated above, in order to enhance utilization of this rubric and align the instruction to the student's IEP goals, each teacher must be knowledgeable regarding the specific content standards identified by the state.

Applying the Rubric: A Case Study Joshua

Joshua is a twelve-year old, sixth grader at Desert Hills Middle School. He has just moved to Nevada from Arizona, and the school is awaiting his records. His parents indicate that he was placed in a self-contained program for students with disabilities in his previous school, but they are requesting that he be placed with his peers for the majority of the day. Joshua has significant speech and language disabilities in both expressive and receptive language. He received two, 30 minute sessions per week from a speech and language pathologist in a pull-out program during fifth grade. Joshua's parents are requesting that the team find a way to incorporate that programming into his courses.

His reading recognition skills are at the fourth grade level, but his comprehension skills are at the late third grade level. His math skills are a strength for him, with computation skills at the fifth grade level, although he has difficulty with word problems. Joshua also has difficulty putting words on paper.

Joshua also has significant organizational problems--some days he is very organized-and other days he cannot find his homework, pencil, paper, or his book bag. When the teacher gives a direction orally, he seems unable to understand the information, particularly if it is a multi-step direction. He also seems to be a loner, with only one or two friends. For Joshua, suggested adaptations and accommodations in the content, methodology, and delivery of instruction that will assist him in accessing the general curriculum and meeting the state's prescribed standards could be the following:

1. Setting/Environment

* Provide a seat for Joshua in the front of the room, close to the teacher, away from distractions;

* Provide Joshua with a daily planner for recording assignments;

* Assist Joshua with making a daily checklist of items he needs for each class-e.g., pencil, paper, notebook, specific books, and with writing these items in his planner;

* Encourage Joshua to become involved in extracurricular activities related to his interests--e.g., softball, soccer, the chess club, by giving him information regarding location and time about these activities; and

* Utilize the daily planner for communication between Joshua's teachers and his parents.

2. Selection/Identification of Materials

* Provide written materials that utilize graphic or pictorial cues to assist with comprehension;

* Select materials that are aligned with Joshua's interests;

* Capitalize on Joshua's math skills, when possible; include computation problems to illustrate concepts presented in language arts, science, social studies;

* Provide material that is self-paced, with numerous opportunities for validation of accuracy by Joshua; and

* Select materials with shortened or simplified vocabulary and limited written information per page.

3. Presentation of Materials or Lesson

* Highlight key words and concepts;

* Provide Joshua with advanced organizers, such as study guides, for lengthy lectures or assignments, to complement material presented auditorially;

* Combine videos, games, projects with written text to present content-related material;

* Tape lectures and class discussions for review by Joshua after class; and

* Provide a peer buddy and utilize the services of the speech-language pathologist to reinforce concepts.

4. Response Mode

* Provide Joshua with a word processor, with a spell check for his written work;

* Utilize learning logs, response cards, portfolios, and/or journals;

* For material that requires verbal responses, provide an assistive technology device so Joshua can pre-record his answers;

* Utilize group projects and class discussions for which Joshua does not need to be the only person responding verbally; and

* Facilitate Joshua's reiteration of verbally-given directions; supplement verbal directions with pictorial and graphic cues.

5. Assessment/Evaluation of Student Knowledge

* Provide objective-i.e., multiple choice, true-false, matching questions, rather than test items that require a significant amount of writing;

* Permit dictated/transcribed responses for short-answer or essay questions; Utilize authentic assessments such as portfolios, class discussions, simulations, and projects

* Utilize individual verbal conferences to assess mastery of content; and

* Implement criterion-referenced or mastery learning grading, rather than traditional grading.

Summary

During the past decade, three major pieces of legislation have dictated that all students, including those with disabilities, must be held accountable for mastering academic standards established by the state. In order to demonstrate their mastery of content-related materials, many students, including those with disabilities, must be provided with adaptations, accommodations, and modifications during their classroom instruction as well as on state-and district-wide assessments. This paper has provided a five-part rubric for utilization by educators to assist the student during his or her instructional activities within the general curriculum so that he or she will have an opportunity to become proficient with the same standards as all other students in the state. If we ensure that all teachers and other service providers are knowledgeable regarding this five-step rubric during their pre-service experience or through professional development activities as practicing professionals, students will be provided with appropriate adaptations, accommodations, and modifications that will enable them to be successful within the general education curriculum.

References

Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities and the early intervention program for infants and toddlers with disabilities; Final regulations, 34 C.F.R. Parts 300 and 303. (1999).

Barth, P., Haycock, K., Huang, S., & Richardson, A. (2001). Youth at the crossroads: Facing high school and beyond. Are today's students ready? Prepared for the National Commission on the High School Senior Year by The Education Trust, Inc., Washington, DC.

Goals 2000: Educate America Act, 20 U.S.C. Section 5810 et seq. (West, 1994).

Improving America's Schools Act of 1994, 20U.S.C. Section 6301 et seq. (West, 1994).

National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A nation at risk. Washington, DC: Author.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997. 20 U.S.C. Section 1400 et seq. (West, 1997).

Williams, J. (2001). Adaptations and accommodations for students with disabilities. Washington, DC: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities. Available: http://www.nichcy.org/pubs/bibliog/bib15txt.htm.

Dr. Williams currently is an Assistant Professo. She has 19 years of public school experience as a teacher and administrator, grades 1-12.
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Article Details
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Author:Williams, Jane M.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:2671
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