Welcome to the Assessment Accommodations Webpage

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What are Accommodations?    

Accommodations are practices and procedures that provide equitable access to grade-level content. Accommodations are intended to reduce or eliminate the effects of a student’s disability or level of language acquisition; they do not reduce learning expectations. The accommodations provided to a student must be consistent for classroom instruction, classroom assessments, and district and state assessments. It is critical to note, that each assessment may have unique accommodation policies, therefore Educators should pay careful attention to assessment policies and what the assessment is trying to measure.

Furthermore, although some accommodations may be appropriate for instructional use, they may not be appropriate for use on a standardized assessment. Please note the following distinctions:


  • Universal tools are access features of the assessment that are either provided as digitally-delivered components of the test administration system or separate from it.  Universal tools are available to all students based on student preference and selection.
  • Allowable test practices are for all students, as needed; they do not alter the content being tested.
  • Designated Supports are features that are available for use by any student for whom the need has been indicated by an educator or team.
  • Accommodations are for students with disabilities and English Language Learners; they do not change the content being assessed or the skill level. Examples of accommodations include a large-print test or using a scribe to record student answers.
  • Modifications do change what is being assessed and are not allowed for any student during Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) testing. Examples of modifications include reducing the number of answer choices or shortening the length of the test.



Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
All students are required to participate in WSAS in either all of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) or the all of the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD), not parts of both. There are no exemptions or waivers for students with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan teams determine the appropriate manner for student with disabilities to participate in statewide assessment; teams must document which test each student will participate in and which accommodations (if any) the student should be given.

Note: Students with disabilities may also use the allowable test practices. When these test practices are used by a student with a disability, they must be documented in the section for statewide testing on the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.

The WKCE/WAA-SwD Accommodations Matrix for Students with Disabilities


Accommodations for English Language Learners (ELLs)
Students identified as ELL must take the accountability assessments (WKCE or WAA-SwD) required under Title I.  ELLs are in the process of acquiring English, therefore ELLs are eligible to receive accommodations that enable students to demonstrate what they know and can do to meet content area standards. Effective accommodations for ELLs address the unique linguistics and socio-cultural needs of the students without altering the measurement properties of the test. Accommodations do not lower expectations for student learning or change the content or skill level being assessed. Accommodations must be entered on the back cover of the students test book. For more information on language assessments for ELLs see http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/oea_ells

A collaborative dialogue between ESL teachers, general education teachers and parents and families can help determine what is best for the individual student based upon the guidelines listed below and the instruction that that student is receiving at the classroom level. When making decisions about the appropriate accommodations for an individual student, the following criteria should be considered:

Current English language proficiency level as determined by ACCESS for ELLs®

Literacy in the home language and in English

  • Opportunity to learn the content areas assessed
  • The primary language of instruction in the content areas
  • Experience or length of time in U.S. schools
  • Degree of familiarity with using the accommodation in instruction and assessment
  • Grade level
  • Other school or district-level related data

Note: ELLs may also use the allowable test practices, as needed.

The WKCE/WAA-SwD Accommodations Matrix for English Language Learners


Accommodations for ELLs with Disabilities
Accommodations providing linguistic support may be combined with accommodations for students with disabilities. Please refer to both matrices; accommodations must be documented in the IEP or 504 Plan in the section for statewide assessments.


Allowable Test Practices for ALL Students
General test taking practices are such as adaptive furniture, small group testing, and breaks may be provided to all students who need them, including general education students. For student with disabilities, these test practices must be documented in a current IEP or 504 Plan in the section for statewide assessment.

WKCE/WAA-SwD Allowable Test Practices for ALL Students


Accommodations for Students in Unique Circumstances
Some students who do not have an IEP or 504 plan, due to unique circumstances at the time of testing, may be able to demonstrate their learning more accurately through the use of accommodations on an as needed basis only. In these unique cases, please follow the guidelines outlined in the matrix for Students with Disabilities; call DPI’s Office of Student Assessment with any questions at (608) 267-1072. Examples of unique circumstances:

  • A student with a broken arm may need a scribe or be able to use a word processor to record responses.
  • A student who forgot to wear eyeglasses may need a visual magnification device.


Request for WKCE/WAA-SwD Accommodations

Any accommodation not listed on a matrix must be submitted to DPI for approval, as it may represent a modification which changes the skill being measured.

  • All requests for an additional accommodation must be made to DPI at least two weeks before the test administration window begins, by completing and submitting the Request for Accommodation Form located at http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/oea_dacforms.
  • Requests will be reviewed by a committee to determine whether the request can be approved; approval or non-approval will be returned via fax or email.


Smarter Balanced Assessment

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia has developed Usability, Accessibility and Accommodation Guidelines.  The guidelines provide information for classroom teachers, English development educators, special education teachers, and related services personnel to use in selecting and administering universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations for those students who need them. The Smarter Balanced Guidelines apply to all students. They emphasize an individualized approach to the implementation of assessment practices for those students who have diverse needs and participate in large-scale content assessments.

Specific universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations approved by Smarter Balanced may change in the future if additional tools, supports or accommodations are identified for the assessment based on state experience and research findings. 

A recently arrived ELL may be exempt from one required administration of the state’s ELA assessment as the ACCESS for ELL® serves as meeting the test participation requirement for that first year.  Recently arrived refers to a student that has attended a U.S. school for less than 12 months and has a language proficiency level of 1 or 2 as determined by ACCESS for ELLs® or the W-APT screener.  Recently arrived students must participate in all other content areas and are eligible to receive accommodations.



The WIDA Consortium encourages the participation of all English language learners in the ACCESS for ELLs® testing program and feels that it is an appropriate assessment for all students except those with the most significant disabilities. The ACCESS for ELLs® has "built in" certain standard features of the test that might lessen the need for accommodations. For example, the thematic orientation of the test and the reliance on graphic support are features that should lend themselves to enhanced comprehension, not only for ELLs in general, but for many students with special needs. However, certain testing accommodations may be appropriate for some students. WIDA provides guidelines for appropriate accommodations for English Language Learners with disabilities.


Alternate ACCESS for ELLs

The accommodations a student uses for Alternate ACCESS for ELLs should be similar to accommodations the student uses during classroom instruction. Please see Guidelines for Accommodations on the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs for a complete list of WIDA's recommended accommodations. This document can be found under Downloads and Products on the following page:  http://wida.us/assessment/alternateaccess.aspx#Administration



The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening is a research based screening, diagnostic, and progress monitoring tool. Wisconsin teachers use PALS to identify students at risk of developing reading difficulties, diagnose students' knowledge of literacy fundamentals, monitor progress, and plan instruction that targets students' needs. Student data collected from PALS provides a direct means of matching literacy instruction to specific literacy needs.  Accommodations policies for PALS can be found at: http://palswisconsin.info/administrators_accommodations.shtml



It is important for NAEP to assess as many students selected to participate as possible. Assessing representative samples of students, including students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners (ELL), helps to ensure that NAEP results accurately reflect the educational performance of all students in the target population, and can continue to serve as a meaningful measure of U.S. students’ academic achievement over time.

The National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, has been exploring ways to ensure that NAEP continues to appropriately include as many students as possible and to do so in a consistent manner for all jurisdictions assessed and reported. In March 2010, the Governing Board adopted a new policy, NAEP Testing and Reporting on Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners PDF File (67 KB). This policy was the culmination of work with experts in testing and curriculum, and those who work with exceptional children and students learning to speak English.