Effective IEP Meetings Part 5: Accommodations and Modifications

The last part of this series of Effective IEP Meetings is accommodations and modifications. Continue to use the IEP Connection Worksheet for alignment and the Accommodation Guidance Tool.
By Trish Geraghty
The last part of this series of Effective IEP Meetings is accommodations and modifications. Continue to use the IEP Connection Worksheet for alignment and the Accommodation Guidance Tool. 

This section asks the team to consider what accommodations or modifications are needed for the student to participate in the general education setting. 

Understood describes the difference between the two as, “An accommodation changes how a student learns the material. A modification changes what a student is taught or expected to learn” (Understood, 2021).

This is another section that teams often overuse and give more accommodations than the student actually needs. Watch out for the “one-size-fits-all” accommodations found in an IEP program. I think of these IEP programs in the accommodation section as going grocery shopping when you are hungry. Everything looks good and you want it. Fight the grocery shopping urge and determine the need for accommodations based on data and knowledge of the student. Use data to determine which accommodations are truly needed. When determining if an accommodation is needed use the Accommodation Guidance Tool to determine the task the student needs to complete, area barriers the student may encounter, Universal Design for Learning strategies that can be used first and by everyone, then finally generate ideas of what accommodations might be needed to support the student in accessing the task. 

Accommodations do not give students an unfair advantage. This is a statement I hear people say during an IEP meeting. By using the Accommodation Guidance Tool in a meeting, it becomes clear how the accommodation was developed, for which task, and what need will be addressed. When a student uses an accommodation the grade-level standard is not altered and expectations are not lowered; it only adjusts how the student accesses the learning. 

While accommodations change how a student learns or accesses the content, a modification changes what is expected for the student to learn and reach mastery. Students requiring modifications typically have moderate to severe disabilities that greatly impact their access and progress in the general education curriculum. Some examples of modifications are an alternate curriculum, simplified skill-level reading materials, an alternative grading rubric, and adjusted learning outcomes to name a few. 

Accommodations and modifications are available to support students in accessing and making progress in the general education curriculum. Use your tools, knowledge of the student, and data to determine the best accommodations and if needed modifications for a student. 

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Understood. (2021, April 14). The difference between accommodations and modifications. Understood. https://www.understood.org/articles/en/the-difference-between-accommodations-and-modifications

Trish Geraghty
Trish Geraghty currently serves as a director for school improvement and supports schools in the continuous improvement process. Prior to working in school improvement, Trish was a special education director for eight years in a large urban school district. She received her Master’s Degree from Arizona State University in 2013 in Educational Leadership. She also holds two additional Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Phoenix. Literacy instruction, data analysis, and Strengths-based leadership are areas of research and presentations Trish shares frequently with schools and their leadership teams. Trish was named teacher of the year by the Council for Exceptional Children in 2004 and a finalist for the Rodel Teacher of the Year in 2010. She has educational experience at the elementary, secondary, and university level. To contact Trish, please email trishkgeraghty@gmail.com.

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