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Accommodations on Reading Comprehension Assessment for Students with Learning Disabilities: A Review Study

Authors:
Psychology, 2019, 10, 521-538
http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych
ISSN Online: 2152-7199
ISSN Print: 2152-7180
DOI:
10.4236/psych.2019.104034 Mar. 15, 2019 521 Psychology
Accommodations on Reading Comprehension
Assessment for Students with Learning
Disabilities: A Review Study
Georgia Andreou, Panagiota Athanasiadou*, Sotiria Tzivinikou
Department of Special Education, University of Thessaly, Thessaly, Greece
Abstract
Students with learning disabilities face severe difficulties in a number of aca-
demic domains, such as phonological awareness, oral or written speech com-
prehension, time management, processing of information and organization of
strategies to solve academic problems
. This group of students constitutes a
large category and even if they receive differentiated teaching, they fail to
successfully perform in examinations. Therefore, the effectiveness of accom-
modations in the reading comprehension assessment of students with learn-
ing disabilities has been extensively studied the last ten years. Researchers ve-
rify the efficiency of the most frequently implemented accommodations
the
administration of extended time and the read-aloud accommodation
and
investigate new accommodations that aim at accurately depicting the perfor-
mance of students with learning disabilities. To ensure assessment fairness
and validity of accommodated tests, it has been proposed under the principles
of interaction theory that these accommodations shoul
d not lead to changes
in typical students’ performance.
The purpose of this paper is to present the
findings of recent research in the field of accommodations on reading com-
prehension assessment, discuss their effectiveness in the context of the inte-
raction theory and provide support for the significance of test accommoda-
tions for students with learning disabilities. The effectiveness of extended
time and read aloud accommodations is confirmed by the results of the re-
searches; however it is concluded that further investigation on additional ac-
commodations is essential, so that different needs and difficulties be accom-
modated appropriately.
Keywords
Learning Disabilities, Assessment, Reading Comprehension, Test
Accommodations Interaction Theory
How to cite this paper:
Andreou, G
.,
Athanasiadou
, P., & Tzivinikou, S. (2019).
Accommodations on Reading Comprehe
n-
sion Assessment for Students with Learning
Disabilities: A
Review Study.
Psychology
,
10
,
521-538.
https://doi.org/10.4236/psych.2019.104034
Received:
January 4, 2019
Accepted:
March 12, 2019
Published:
March 15, 2019
Copyright © 20
19 by author(s) and
Scientific
Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative
Commons Attribution International
License (CC BY
4.0).
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Open Access
G. Andreou et al.
DOI:
10.4236/psych.2019.104034 522 Psychology
1. Introduction
Reading comprehension is a complex procedure which plays a significant role in
the academic, professional and social success of students and adults and de-
mands the automaticity of the so-called “lower” cognitive processing skills, such
as decoding (Helland & Kaasa, 2005; Τζιβινίκου, 2015) and more demanding
cognitive skills (Kuhn, Schwanenflugel, & Meisinger, 2010), such as self-regulation
techniques (Dermitzaki, Andreou, & Paraskeva, 2008). Due to the complexity of
the procedure, reading comprehension cannot be easily assessed, as there are
numerous skills that must be synchronized while comprehending a text (Harley,
2014), rendering standard test formats inadequate to assess the competence of
these skills. The situation is even more demanding for students with learning
disabilities who often face severe reading problems, making reading comprehen-
sion a difficult task for them both in the teaching and in the assessment process
(Torgesen, 2006). Apart from the reading difficulties of students with learning
disabilities, there are a lot of students diagnosed with specific reading disability
who face severe difficulties in decoding, reading fluency (Shaywitz & Shaywitz,
2005), memory span, inference making, self-regulation techniques (Zimmerman,
2002) and time management (Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2005).
Nowadays, due to the growing number of students with learning disabilities
and particularly specific reading disability in classrooms (Hulme & Snowling,
2011), there is an attempt from the teachers and the educational institutions of
various countries to offer differentiated teaching. Differentiated teaching refers
to the inclusion of more experiential ways of learning and instruction of learning
techniques (Torgesen, 2006) aiming at compensating for the difficulties students
with learning disabilities face in the process of learning. Furthermore, there is an
attempt to offer accommodations regarding the assessment of these students
(Sireci, Li, & Scarpati, 2003), such as extended time during exams, since even if
they receive differentiated teaching, they still perform poorly in standard tests.
This fact delineates the need for differentiation in tests administration which will
take into account the characteristics of the students with learning disabilities and
enable them to show their full potential during the process of the exams.
Assessment of students with learning disabilities is a procedure which de-
mands careful planning. It has been proven that students with reading disabili-
ties underperform in standard tests, a fact that makes them feel less confident,
leading them to quit the effort of academic advancement (Alexander-Passe,
2006). Consequently, a number of researches were conducted in order to assess
the effectiveness of various test accommodations for students with learning dis-
abilities and to promote fairer assessment (Schneider, Gong, & Egan, 2016). The
majority of accommodations refer to the additional time that is given to students
with learning disabilities or to the oral presentation of certain parts of the tests,
in an effort to adapt material to students’ learning profile; the learning profile
being the focal point in the learning (Eide & Eide, 2006) and assessment proce-
dure.
Another issue that preoccupies researchers is if the accommodations that are
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offered to students with learning disabilities improve the performance of only
these students and not of their typical peers, so that it can be ensured that ac-
commodations offer fair and valid assessment. Following this concern, the inte-
raction theory has been proposed supporting the fact that accommodations must
benefit only students with special educational needs and not typically developing
students (Sireci, Li, & Scarpati, 2003).
Most of the studies on assessment accommodations that will be reviewed were
conducted in the mother tongue of each researcher; English being the most fre-
quent. Furthermore, the majority of participants in the researches that will be
discussed are students of primary and secondary education that face learning
difficulties. As far as the accommodations are concerned, Thurlow, Lazarus,
Thompson, & Morse (2005) state that there are five types of accommodations;
differentiation in timing, differentiation in the way of responding, differentiation
in the test surroundings, differentiation in the material provided and differen-
tiated presentations of the test. The most frequent accommodations refer to the
administration of extended time and the read aloud accommodation. In view of
the above, the purpose of this paper is to review a number of recent researches
(after 2000) conducted on accommodations used in reading comprehension as-
sessment for students with learning disabilities, so as to present the variety of
implemented accommodation and their efficiency, and discuss them in the light
of the interaction theory.
2. Read Aloud Accommodation
The most widely researched accommodation is the read aloud accommodation
which refers to the oral presentation of the whole test or parts of it (Sireci, Li, &
Scarpati, 2003). Weston’s (2002) study discusses the positive effects of read-
aloud accommodation to a sample of 4th grade students who undertook a maths
test (calculations and word problems) under the standard and the read aloud
accommodation. Although the study refers to a maths test, it provides significant
insights on reading comprehension assessment.
The read-aloud accommodation involved the oral presentation of the test
questions and choices by the teachers. Students were also administered the first
part of Terra Nova Reading Test which assessed their reading ability and aca-
demic level (Weston, 2002), so as to draw conclusions on reading comprehen-
sion and performance in tests demanding the use of this skill. In addition,
teachers were asked their beliefs on the accommodation and its effectiveness.
The findings of the study supported that the read aloud accommodation bene-
fited students with learning disabilities more than their typical peers and stu-
dents with mild reading difficulties who presented mixed results under the two
formats. It was concluded that the less proficient in reading were the students,
the more the gains, since listening to the test compensated for their decoding
difficulties, comprehension deficits and even engagement in the test (Weston,
2002).
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Moving to studies on reading comprehension per se, Randall & Engelhard
(2010) conducted a long term study on the read-aloud accommodation and re-
source guide, in 4th and 7th grade Georgia students. The participants were tested
in the 3rd and 6th grade through a standard achievement test that also assessed
reading comprehension, and in the next grade they completed the correspond-
ing test under one of two kinds of accommodations or under the standard ad-
ministration. The participants were students with and without learning disabili-
ties and they were assigned randomly to one of the three types of administration
(Randall & Engelhard, 2010). One accommodation was the use of a resource
book, that will be discussed in the section
Other accommodations
and the other
accommodation was the read-aloud accommodation of all texts and questions.
It was concluded that students with learning disabilities in all grades, except
the 7th grade where improvement in performance was observed in both groups,
benefitted from the read aloud accommodation more than their typical peers,
presenting a differential boost (Randall & Engelhard, 2010). According to the
researchers, this may suggest that the read aloud accommodation is more indic-
ative of the performance of younger students. However, researchers stated a
number of limitations concerning their study, such as the lack of motivation in
being retested, which may have affected students’ performance in the second
administration of the test (Randall & Engelhard, 2010).
However, a number of studies present contradictory results, as far as the ex-
tent of improvement the read-aloud accommodation offers to students with
learning disabilities, but they were quite unanimous as regards its positive ef-
fects. Such a research on read aloud accommodation was conducted by Craw-
ford & Tindal (2004). The participants of the study were 4th and 5th graders, typ-
ical students and students with learning disabilities. They completed a reading
test under the standard format and the accommodated one, which involved the
use of video. More specifically, the students watched a monitor in which the text
was read by a researcher and then the comprehension questions and the answers
were presented orally and visually (Crawford & Tindal, 2004). The results indi-
cated that the majority of students with and without learning disabilities bene-
fitted from this accommodation; though to a different extent (Crawford & Tin-
dal, 2004), rendering the research on individualized profiles of students urgent
to reach conclusions on the effectiveness of accommodations.
Furthermore, the study of Meloy, Deville, & Frisbie (2000), during which se-
lected texts from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) achievement test were ad-
ministered to middle school students randomly assigned to standard or read-
aloud format showed that the latter led to significantly better results for both
typical students and students with specific reading disability. The results of the
aforementioned study did not verify interaction theory, and due to the extent of
the improvement, Meloy, Deville, & Frisbie (2000) proposed that more research
should be conducted on accommodations that would be more indicative of the
students’ performance as far as reading comprehension is concerned.
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Kosciolek & Ysseldyke (2000) conducted a research on the read aloud ac-
commodation on 17 typical students and 15 students in special education of 3rd
to 5th grade. The students were administered both the standard and the accom-
modated version of California Achievement Tests (CAT/5), Comprehension
Survey. In the accommodated version the students listened to a text from an au-
diocassette player. The results of the research showed that typically developing
students outperformed the students with learning disabilities in both tests; how-
ever, the latter group presented improvement in the accommodated format,
whereas typical students did not show any significant difference. Nonetheless, it
is concluded that there was no statistically significant interaction between par-
ticipants’ learning profile and type of administration, rendering research on
bigger groups highly significant (Kosciolek & Ysseldyke, 2000).
Dolan, Hall, Banerjee, Chun, & Strangman (2005) examined the effect of
computer-based read aloud accommodation on ten students of 11th and 12th
grade with specific learning disabilities. Participants were presented with history
and civics test that also assessed their reading comprehension skill both in pa-
per-pencil form and computer-based read aloud format. The test included 22
texts with multiple choice questions. Both formats included two additional ac-
commodations, the presentation of one test item at a time and the absence of a
separate answer sheet for the students to mark their answers (Dolan et al., 2005).
The participants were trained in the use of the computer-based system, before
the administration of the test. Interviews were also used to investigate the prefe-
rences of students while using the computer-based system. The test was coun-
terbalanced across four randomly organized groups in terms of order (paper to
pencil format and computer-based format) and test form (form A and B) (Dolan
et al., 2005).
The results of the study verified the beneficial effect of the read-aloud ac-
commodation for reading comprehension compared to the standard format,
only for longer texts, since texts of 100 words and below are not perceived so
challenging even by students with learning disabilities (Dolan et al., 2005). The
researchers concluded that a read-aloud accommodation through the use of
technology offers more possibilities to students than the teacher oriented
read-aloud accommodation, which is affected by each teacher’s personal reading
style and speed. Additionally, researchers supported that technology increases
students’ engagement (Dolan et al., 2005). Supportive information on the addi-
tional technology oriented options of this accommodation, apart from the text to
speech option, will be provided in the section
Technology Oriented Accommo-
dations.
Brown & Augustine (2001) also examined technology-oriented read aloud ac-
commodation through screen reading software (Authorware 5.0) in students
with and without reading disabilities, completing science and social studies as-
sessment. Authorware 5.0 enabled participants to listen to test items as many
times as they needed. Half of the students began with the software format while
the other half with the pencil-paper format. The researchers concluded that
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there was no overall statistically significant difference between the two formats
as far as reading performance is concerned. However, it has been suggested that
the students’ lack of knowledge on social studies and science, which is achieved
primarily through the use of the reading skill in which they present difficulties,
may have affected the results of poor readers and not their reading comprehen-
sion competence per se (Brown & Augustine, 2001).
On the other hand, Elbaum, Arguelles, Campbell, & Saleh (2004) conducted a
research on assessing the read aloud accommodation, compared to the standard
format, on a reading comprehension test for students of middle and high school
with and without learning disabilities. In the accommodated format students
were asked to read the text, the questions and all the possible answers before
they reach their final decision. Loud reading helps learning disabled students
monitor their decoding difficulties by correcting the mistakes they listen to while
reading a text (Elbaum et al., 2004). The researchers concluded that neither
group showed positive differences in the performance between the two formats.
Nevertheless, students with learning disabilities presented greater variability, ei-
ther positive or negative, as far as their reaction to the accommodation is con-
cerned (Elbaum et al., 2004). Due to some students’ underperforming in the ac-
commodated format, the researchers suggested that more thorough organiza-
tion, individualized insights and testing of the effectiveness of the accommoda-
tions applied is urgent.
3. Extended Time Accommodation
In the review of Sireci, Li, & Scarpati (2003), extended time is referred to as the
most common accommodation in various academic domains, such as reading
comprehension and maths, leading both typical students and students with
learning disabilities to better results, the latter presenting greater improvement
than the former. Τhe aforementioned statement has been confirmed by a num-
ber of studies.
In Huesman & Frisbie’s (2000) study, typical students and students with
learning disabilities from two districts completed the Iowa Test of Basic Skills
Reading Comprehension Test under its standard and “extended time” version,
except for 68 learning disabilities students (LD) who completed the test only
under extended time version due to data collection inconsistencies. More specif-
ically, as far as the LD group is concerned, there were two groups based on the
administration they received. The first group completed the test under both
conditions while the second only under the extended time administration. Fur-
thermore, participants without learning disabilities (NLD) formed two groups
based on their distinct district, completing the test under both conditions, but
received different instructions, so it was not possible to combine their results.
During the extended time administration, the students who needed more time
than the provided were given 20 minutes extra to complete their test, but they
were asked to mark the point in the test where they asked for additional time.
The results showed that the learning disabilities group presented a variety in
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the time needed to complete the test (Huesman & Frisbie, 2000). More specifi-
cally, some of the students did not need additional time, others asked for the ex-
tra 20-minute accommodation and some performed above the average without
any accommodation. In addition, the groups of non-learning disabilities re-
ceived different directions, with the group who was told to work at their own
pace presenting better results compared to the one who was urged to work at a
normal pace, under extended conditions. All in all, under the extended time ac-
commodation all groups, except for the NLD group that was instructed to work
at a normal pace, presented better results, with the LD students who faced severe
reading difficulties showing greater improvement than the other LD and NLD
peers (Huesman & Frisbie, 2000). The researchers concluded that a general ac-
commodation of fixed additional time may not be as effective as the demand of
additional time by the ones who need it. In any case, more individualized ac-
commodations based on the learning profile of the students may provide more
representative results regarding their performance.
Mandinach, Bridgeman, Cahalan-Laitusis, & Trapani (2005) conducted a re-
search on the administration of extended time to junior high school students
who were identified as typical students, students with learning disabilities and/or
ADHD. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) that was given to all groups in-
cluded both maths and verbal part, the latter having also reading comprehension
exercises. The test was randomly administered to the participants under the
standardized time, 1.5 additional time with and without specific timing for the
sections and double additional time. The results did not show significant im-
provement in the performance of the participants with and without disabilities,
with the low-ability students gaining the least from this accommodation, since
they lacked reading comprehension strategies (Mandinach et al., 2005). Howev-
er, researchers mentioned that the number of participants with learning disabili-
ties was limited, so as to reach safe conclusions. It was concluded that the most
beneficial administration for students both with and without learning disabili-
ties, as far as the verbal part is concerned, was the 1.5 extended time with specific
section timing and breaks, which seems to have aided both groups of students
achieve slightly better results.
Studies on adults with reading disabilities also support the positive effect of
the administration of extended time. In the research of Lesaux, Pearson, & Siegel
(2006), 64 native English speaking adults with and without reading disabilities
completed a reading comprehension test (Nelson-Denny Reading Test) under
timed (20 minutes) and untimed conditions (40 minutes) and subtests assessing
domains such as word recognition and vocabulary knowledge. The participants
were divided into average readers, above average readers, below average readers
and readers with severe reading disabilities.
The results indicated that the untimed condition benefitted the participants
with reading disabilities, with the below average and severe reading disabilities
groups presenting greater improvement, even though they had never accepted
any intervention (Lesaux, Pearson, & Siegel, 2006). Nonetheless, the extended
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time accommodation did not lead the severe reading disabilities students, de-
spite their improvement, to achieving the same results as the average readers
group. However, the below average readers approached the performance of the
average ones. All in all, the researchers suggested the administration of extended
time as a favorable accommodation, but they emphasized the need for adapta-
tions on the different types of accommodations according to the distinct charac-
teristics of each disorder and the severity of its symptoms.
Opposing results are presented in the study of Lewandowski, Lovett, & Rogers
(2008) who did not observe statistically significant improvement in the perfor-
mance of the students with learning disabilities under extended time administra-
tion. More specifically, 32 students with learning disabilities (LD) and 32 typical
students of 10th to 12th grade participated in the study. Students were asked to
complete the comprehension subtest of the Nelson-Denny Reading Test, as far
as reading comprehension is concerned, (NDRT; Brown, Fishco & Hanna, 1993,
as cited in Lewandowski, Lovett, & Rogers, 2008), among cognitive and fluency
tests, which were administered under both conditions. It was shown that ex-
tended time benefitted non-LD students more than LD students. However, the
LD group presented improvement both in terms of the number of test items they
managed to answer, since under non-accommodated conditions they managed
to answer fewer test items, and the number of the correct answers they gave. LD
students managed to complete as many items as their typical peers did, scoring
better in the accommodated format than the standard one (Lewandowski, Lo-
vett, & Rogers, 2008).
4. Technology Oriented Accommodations
Along with read-aloud and extended time, technology oriented accommodations
that basically include the use of particular software, have started gaining ground,
offering significant aid to students with learning disabilities. Schneps, Thomson,
Chen, Sonnert, & Pomplun (2013) investigated the use of e-readers as an ac-
commodation in high school students facing reading disabilities. The sample of
the study consisted of 103 high school students with dyslexia, with or without
decoding problems and limited attention span, who were randomly assigned in-
to four groups. The literacy profile of the students had been measured by stan-
dard tests before the experiment. During the experiment, texts were divided into
forms A and B with two levels of difficulty and were given to the participants,
who had to read them either on paper or on the I-Pod and then answer multiple
choice questions on a sheet of paper. Each group completed the test in a differ-
ent order as far as the form (A or B) and the means (iPod or paper) are con-
cerned. The procedure was repeated for the two levels of difficulty. Visual atten-
tion span was also examined.
The I-Pod offered particular font and setting, Times New Roman pt. 42 with a
right-ragged margin and black background with full white or grey display of the
text and fewer words per line. Participants were given time in order to get fami-
liarized with the I-Pod so as not to experience difficulties with its use due to the
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lack of practical knowledge. It was concluded that simple presentation modifica-
tions such as the font and the length of lines, improved the performance irres-
pectively of the extent of reading difficulties (Schneps et al., 2013). More specifi-
cally, it was shown that through the presentation properties of the iPod, students
with decoding problems and poor sight word reading read faster, while partici-
pants with limited visual attention span presented improved comprehension,
leading to the conclusion that the iPod enhanced their attention and memory
deficits (Schneps et al., 2013).
Another research on assistive technology as an accommodation for improving
the performance of students with learning disabilities was conducted by Floyd &
Judge (2012). Six postsecondary students were selected after a screening proce-
dure for learning disabilities and more specifically for reading comprehension
disabilities. The tool that was used was the ClassMate Reader which enabled the
participants to choose the font and the background colour they wish, to listen to
the text while it appears on the screen, to adjust the volume and the speed of
read-aloud and to use a dictionary to find the meaning and the pronunciation of
the words.
The participants first completed the reading comprehension assessment on
paper, and then throughout each intervention session, they completed reading
comprehension assessment with the aid of the assistive tool. It was concluded
that assistive technology and particularly ClassMate reader improved signifi-
cantly the performance of all the students in the reading comprehension assess-
ment, aiding them surpass the obstacles set by their reading difficulties, no mat-
ter their extent (Floyd & Judge, 2012).
In addition, Dolan et al. (2005), as mentioned before, investigated the effec-
tiveness in test results of a computer-based system with additional text to speech
option (CBT-TTS) in the administration of a history and civics test. Along with
the optional text to speech accommodation, the computer-based system allowed
the highlighting of words that aided participants’ reading procedure. Partici-
pants also had the opportunity to review their answers through the system if
they wished.
The results of the study confirmed the effectiveness of the computer-based
system along with the text to speech facility, since students showed significant
improvement regarding their performance in texts longer than 100 words. It was
also verified by the students’ interviews that the text to speech accommodation
helped them either in decoding or in comprehension and they expressed a pre-
ference for it when comparing it to human read-aloud accommodation (Dolan
et al., 2005). Furthermore, researchers also referred to the frequency of using
other facilities of the computer-based system; among the most frequent being
the review marker and words highlighting which enabled participants regulate
their own decisions according to their needs, offering a more individualized ap-
proach (Dolan et al., 2005). These possibilities may have also affected the posi-
tive results and the positive attitude of participants towards the computer-based
system (Dolan et al., 2005). The researchers conclude that further investigation
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is important to show the full potential of a computer-based system, with larger
samples and more thorough training in its use (Dolan et al., 2005).
Moreover, Lange, McPhillips, Mulhern, & Wylie (2006) investigated the effec-
tiveness of four literacy assistive software tools on assessing reading comprehen-
sion among other domains (e.g. proofreading). The participants of this study
were 93 students (14 - 15 years old) with reading difficulties, information that
was obtained after the administration of a standardized reading test (Lange et al.,
2006). Three groups were formed; the Assistive Software Group, the Microsoft
Control Group and the Full Control Group, with the first two being trained on
the corresponding software. Τhe third group received no training. The groups
were matched on several variables, such as socioeconomic status, IQ, reading
and spelling ability and computer exposure (Lange et al., 2006). All three groups
used the Microsoft World with the first group using also the Read & Write Gold,
Version 6 (2002, as cited in Lange et al., 2006) and the second group having
access to advanced tools in Microsoft Word. Two standardized reading tests
(WORD reading comprehension subtest (Rust et al., 1993, as cited in Lange et
al., 2006) and the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability II (Neale, 1997, as cited in
Lange et al., 2006) were modified for computer use. The questions of the reading
text were all multiple-choice questions. Participants first completed a pretest
without the use of any tool, then groups one and two received training on the
corresponding tools (including spellchecking, dictionary, homophone and
speech synthesis tools), and afterwards they were administered a posttest in
which specific subtools of the corresponding software were used for each do-
main, e.g. reading comprehension or proofreading (Lange et al., 2006).
As far as the reading comprehension part is concerned, the Assistive Tool
Group showed more significant improvement than the other two groups, basi-
cally due to the speech synthesis tool which compensated for decoding difficul-
ties (Lange et al., 2006). Dictionaries seemed also to have aided the first group,
but only those with higher reading scores, whereas the degree of reading diffi-
culty did not reveal statistically significant results in the other two groups (Lange
et al., 2006).
Finally, Higgins & Raskind (2005) investigated the effectiveness of Quicktio-
nary Reading Pen II, a technological device, on reading comprehension of stu-
dents with learning disabilities. The participants were 30 students, between 10
and 18 years old that were identified as students with learning disabilities. After
extensive practice with the device, participants were asked to complete reading
comprehension multiple choice exercises from the Formal Reading Inventory
(FRI) (Wiederholt, 1986, as cited in Higgins & Raskind, 2005), under the stan-
dard format and the Quiktionary Reading Pen II, the latter offering aid to de-
coding and to definition of unknown words.
The results of the study confirmed the results of previous studies on assistive
technology, since the participants showed improvement both in the number of
correct answers but also in the reading of more demanding texts as the test pro-
ceeded (Higgins & Raskind, 2005). Researchers emphasized on the effectiveness
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of assistive technology, however they suggested that further research should be
conducted with larger samples and age groups and with students of different le-
vels of aptitude in using technology, since the participants of this research were
thoroughly exposed to the specific technological device and this might have af-
fected the results (Higgins & Raskind, 2005).
5. Other Accommodations
Apart from the read-aloud, extended time and technology-oriented accommo-
dations, which seem to gain ground, there are other accommodations which
have not been extensively used or researched, focusing on the types of exercises,
the scheduling of administration and the cognitive aid provided while complet-
ing a test. Below, accommodations such as the aforementioned are being dis-
cussed.
Returning to the research of Randall & Engelhard (2010) on the read-aloud
accommodation and resource guide, in 4th and 7th grade students, the effective-
ness of the latter will be discussed in more details. The resource guide used in
the research included academic definition of words and explanation of the main
points of the questions, such as explanation of the terminology e.g. main
idea-details, offering scaffolding to students while completing the test. This ac-
commodation led to a slight improvement in the performance only of the typical
group and resulted in a decline of the performance of the group with learning
disabilities. The aforementioned result might be attributed to the lack of familia-
rization of the students with the resource guide and the need of having reading
competence to use it; a skill in which participants faced significant difficulties
(Randall & Engelhard, 2010).
Furthermore, the research of Fletcher, Francis, Boudousquie, Copeland,
Young, Kalinowski, & Vaughn (2006) examined both the effect of the read aloud
accommodation, including the oral presentation of proper nouns and of com-
prehension stems in the reading comprehension assessment and of multiple ses-
sions, that is the completion of the test into two blocks of time instead of one
(Fletcher et al., 2006). The participants of the study attended the 3rd grade and
were average or poor decoders. Participants were given the Texas reading ac-
countability assessment under the standard or the accommodated format. The
results of the research confirmed the interaction theory, since students with de-
coding difficulties benefitted from the accommodation, while average decoders
did not present any significant improvement (Fletcher et al., 2006). However, the
performance of poor readers did not approach the one of average readers
(Fletcher et al., 2006). Despite the positive effects of the accommodations, it is
not possible to understand if one of the three accommodations or their combi-
nation led to the improved results.
In addition, Fletcher, Francis, O’Malley, Copeland, Mehta, Caldwell, Kali-
nowski, Young, & Vaughn (2009) conducted a research on a package of accom-
modations administered to more than 100 students of 7th grade, including read
aloud of stems, answers and proper nouns in the administration of the modified
G. Andreou et al.
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10.4236/psych.2019.104034 532 Psychology
for research purposes TAKS test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, as
cited in Fletcher et al., 2009), along with the accommodation of the test’s com-
pletion in one or two days. Poor and average readers were identified through
testing and randomly assigned to three groups, each completing the TAKS under
one of the three formats, the standard format, the read aloud format completed
within one day and the read aloud completed within two days (Fletcher et al.,
2009). The test included both narrative and expository texts with multiple choice
and open questions.
The results of the research showed that poor readers presented improved per-
formance in both types of accommodations, with the two-day administration
presenting the best results (Fletcher et al., 2009). The aforementioned finding
leads to the assumption that multiple day accommodation provided participants
with more positive results than the read aloud one, as it enabled students to limit
fatigue, which often obstructs them from organizing their thought and strategies
(Fletcher et al., 2009). On the other hand, since all participants had completed a
state administered TAKS test as part of the educational procedure, before the
administration of the three formats of the same test for the purposes of the re-
search, the following comparison is enabled. Specifically, the average readers
presented no statistically significant improvement in the accommodated formats
compared to the state-administered test, whereas the average readers completing
the standard format during the experimental procedure presented lower per-
formance compared to the state-administered test, probably due to the lack of
motivation in completing the same test under low-stake conditions (Fletcher et
al. 2009). The latter finding obstructs the researchers from verifying the interac-
tion theory through the results of this research.
Contrary to the above findings, Walz, Albus, Thompson, & Thurlow (2000)
reported no improvement under the multiple-day accommodation on the part of
students with disabilities. The study was conducted in two urban and two rural
schools. The participants were 112 students with and without learning disabili-
ties (64 students of general education and 48 of special education), from 7th and
8th grade, some of them not having English as a home language (Walz et al.,
2000). The Minnesota Basic Standard Test was the pool of the study’s test items
(Walz et al., 2000). All students were administered the standard form (one day
administration) and the accommodated form (three day administration) without
any other familiar to participants accommodation, such as the absence of a sep-
arate answer sheet (Walz et al., 2000). Special education and general education
students were divided into four groups and completed the test under both forms
but different administration order.
The results of the research did not support the interaction theory since stu-
dents with learning difficulties performed lower than typical students in both
forms (Walz et al., 2000). Furthermore, all groups showed better results under
the one day administration, with the general education groups presenting lower
instead of statistically stable performance under the three day accommodation
(Walz et al., 2000). The researchers suggest more research on different test
G. Andreou et al.
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10.4236/psych.2019.104034 533 Psychology
lengths, since in this research the three-day administration involved the comple-
tion of one text with 10 multiple choice questions which was considered too
short to provoke fatigue and reveal the full potential of the accommodation
(Walz et al., 2000). They also suggest the use of other accommodations, which
are familiar to students, along with the multiple day accommodation, and a
more homogeneous linguistic profile (Walz et al., 2000).
Finally, De Kida, De Avila, & Capellini (2016) evaluated reading comprehen-
sion through oral retelling not as an accommodation but as an alternative way to
assess reading comprehension of students with dyslexia and language based
learning disability (LBLD). This particular change in the assessment evaluates
participants’ comprehension both at micro level, that is the number of ideas that
are retold, and macro level, the relevance and the meaningful links between the
ideas of the text, according to their schooling age. The participants were 105
elementary school students from 2nd to 5th grade. They were divided into six
groups, group of students with dyslexia and LBLD, their corresponding control
groups and two groups paired with the dyslexic and LBLD groups as regards
reading accuracy. The texts that were used in the study were four expository
texts of unknown topics to students in order to minimize previous knowledge
effects. Participants were asked to read the texts either silently or aloud and they
were not given a specific amount of time for the completion of the procedure.
The retelling was recorded so as to be analyzed in the aftermath.
It was concluded that the groups presenting learning disabilities did not ap-
proach the performance of typical students due to the difficulties created by their
learning profile (De Kida, De Avila, & Capellini, 2016). However, the dyslexic
students presented better results in retelling compared to LBLD students who
faced severe difficulties in all aspects of linguistic competence, supporting the
conclusions on the distinct learning profile of each disorder and verifying the
need for specific differentiations according to the specific characteristics of each
disability (De Kida, De Avila, & Capellini, 2016). It was also verified that retel-
ling aided the dyslexic group perform better than the paired accuracy group as
far as macro level is concerned, suggesting that decoding difficulties can be
compensated both by linguistic competence and more exposure to reading (De
Kida, De Avila, & Capellini, 2016). Nevertheless, retelling as a way of assessing
reading comprehension presents limitations and is not appropriate for all kinds
of disorders and age groups.
6. Discussion and Directions for Future Research
As shown in the studies reviewed, the most frequent accommodations as far as
reading comprehension assessment for students with learning disabilities is
concerned are extended time and read aloud accommodation. Other accommo-
dations were also discussed but to a limited extent, since there is a restricted
number of experimental studies as regards their effectiveness. However, they of-
fer some useful data which can be used by researchers in order to further inves-
G. Andreou et al.
DOI:
10.4236/psych.2019.104034 534 Psychology
tigate the effectiveness of accommodations, other than the “extended time” and
“read aloud” ones, as regards the improvement of reading comprehension skills
of students with learning disabilities. Such accommodations refer to differen-
tiated types of exercises, technology oriented accommodations, scheduling ac-
commodations and provision of cognitive aid while completing a test; differen-
tiations that focus not only on the way of administering the test but also on the
test items themselves.
On a practical basis, this review provides teachers with helpful insights as re-
gards the variety of existing accommodations and their efficiency. Firstly,
knowing the variety of accommodations and their validity which is proven by
scientific research, will allow teachers to choose the most appropriate one for
specific difficulties and age groups, without questioning the validity of their stu-
dents’ performance. It is quite often that teachers are not aware of the variety of
existing accommodations and that they do not implement the ones they know
for fear that they might affect the validity of students’ results. In addition, the
interaction theory provides support on the use of accommodations for the whole
classroom instead of students with learning disabilities, enabling teachers to
solve problems of objections on an alleged favorable format available only to a
specific group of students. Finally, the accommodations analyzed refer both to
high-stake national examinations and school exams, enabling their administra-
tion during summative assessment so that teachers receive a more accurate pic-
ture of their students’ performance. The aforementioned procedures will lead to
the creation of an educational system that provides students with learning dis-
abilities with all the means for academic advancement both in terms of teaching
and in terms of assessment, since the difficulties that students with learning dis-
abilities face regulate all the aspects of the educational procedure.
On academic level, the findings of the studies reviewed are ambivalent as far
as the verification of the interaction theory is concerned, since some accommo-
dations led to improvement of the performance of students both with and with-
out learning disabilities, supporting the need for more research. In the majority
of the studies, this improvement was greater but not exclusive to students with
learning disabilities promoting a differentiation in the definition of the interac-
tion theory that puts emphasis on the extent of the performance improvement
and not on the absence of improvement in the performance of typical students
(Sireci, Li, & Scarpati, 2003). On the other hand, there are also studies, such as
Fletcher et al. (2006) research, the results of which support the interaction
theory, since their findings show an improvement in the performance only of
students with learning disabilities and not of typical students under the accom-
modated conditions.
More specifically, the majority of the studies reviewed favor a differentiated
definition of the interaction theory which supports a differential boost as far as
the improvement of the performance of the participants is concerned. This dif-
ferential boost hypothesis (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1999, as cited in Gregg & Nelson,
G. Andreou et al.
DOI:
10.4236/psych.2019.104034 535 Psychology
2012) proposes a less strict version of the interactive theory, which puts empha-
sis on the extent of improvement under the differentiated assessment and not
the lack of it. It is supported that accommodations should lead LD students to
more significant improvement than their typical peers (Gregg & Nelson, 2012).
The aforementioned theory has been supported by the majority of the studies
reviewed, such as Huesman & Frisbie (2000), and Weston (2002) studies.
However, a significant number of studies that focused on technology oriented
accommodations, such as Higgins & Raskind (2005) research, and other ac-
commodations apart from the read-aloud and extended time accommodations,
included only LD participants, so it was not possible to discuss the effectiveness
of these accommodations in the light of the interaction theory. Moreover, the
studies of Kosciolek & Ysseldyke (2000), Brown & Augustine (2001) and El-
baum, Arguelles, Campbell, & Saleh (2004) showed no statistically significant
improvement for either group as far as the differentiated administration is con-
cerned. Finally, there were mixed results concerning the read-aloud and ex-
tended time accommodations as regards whether they led to performance im-
provement of all students, LD students or neither type of students.
Consequently, more research is needed with samples that include both typical
students and students with learning disabilities through which the validity of the
interaction theory will be assessed and probably the need for a less strict version
of it will emerge. In addition, due to the fact that the majority of the studies re-
ferred to a sample that was labeled as “group with learning disabilities”, it would
be significant for future research to examine test accommodations on samples
diagnosed with a specific disorder, such as specific reading disability, so that a
conclusion is reached on which accommodations are more effective than others
for each particular disorder. Such research would demonstrate appropriate test
differentiations that would cater for each student’s learning profile, according to
the distinct characteristics each disorder presents. Finally, studies that will assess
only one accommodation at a time may present clearer results as to which type
of accommodation is more effective. It is supported that when a combination of
accommodations is used, clear conclusions cannot be drawn as to the contribu-
tion of each separate accommodation to the improvement of the performance of
students with learning disabilities (Fuchs et al., in press, as cited in Fletcher et
al., 2006). Therefore, studies on distinct accommodations will provide us with
clearer insights on their effectiveness on particular deficits and skills.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this pa-
per.
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The interaction hypothesis proposes that valid test accommodations benefit only those with disabilities. To evaluate this hypothesis, Grade 3 students with word decoding difficulties identified with dyslexia and average decoders were randomly assigned to take the same version of the Texas reading accountability assessment under accommodated and standard administrations. The accommodated administration was given in 2 sessions with oral reading of proper nouns and comprehension stems. Only students with decoding problems benefited from the accommodations, showing a significant increase in average performance and a 7-fold increase in the odds of passing the test. These results supported the interaction hypothesis, showing that accommodations designed for a clearly defined academic disability can enhance performance on a high-stakes assessment.
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This study investigated the efficacy of a package of accommodations for poor readers in Grade 7. Students with and without word reading disabilities were randomly assigned to take an experimental version of a high-stakes reading comprehension test in 1 of 3 formats: (a) standard administration, (b) read aloud accommodations with 1-day administration, or (c) read aloud accommodations with 2-day administration. The significant condition effect and nonsignificant group by condition interaction suggested that accommodations helped both poor and average readers. However, the accommodation effect in average readers stemmed from low performance in the nonaccommodated experimental condition that was not apparent when the same students previously took the state-administered test. The 2-day administration was more effective than the 1-day administration.
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The effects of extended time on SAT Reasoning Test™ performance are examined. The study explored the impact of providing standard time, time and a half (1.5 time) with and without specified section breaks, and double time without specified section breaks on the verbal and mathematics sections of the SAT®. Differences among ability, disability, and gender groups were examined. Results indicated that time and a half with separately timed sections benefits students with and without disabilities. Some extra time improves performance, but too much may be detrimental. Extra time benefits medium- and high-ability students but provides little or no advantage to low-ability students. The effects of extended time are more pronounced for the mathematics sections of the SAT. The implications for potential changes to the SAT and the need for future research are discussed.
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State assessment systems continue to evolve as federal requirements change and more students are included in the assessment systems. An examination of states' participation and accommodations policies in place at the beginning of the accountability requirements set by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 revealed that policies for both participation and accommodations were becoming more specific in comparison to previous years. Additional participation options beyond the usual three (participation without accommodations, participation with accommodations, alternate assessment) were more evident in state policies, and states continued to increase the number of accommodations included in their policies. Some states allowed accommodations for all students regardless of whether they received special education services. The most controversial accommodations continued to be read aloud, calculator, and scribe. Changes in state policies, differences among current policies, and implications of these policies are discussed.