What’s the Difference?

Accommodations &  Modifications


Many times teachers use vocabulary in Planning meetings that often is misunderstood or interpreted differently. Two words I immediately think of are accommodations and modifications. Let’s clarify them below using Freedman’s definitions:

Adaptations that provide access to the general curriculum but do not fundamentally alter the grade-level standards are known as accommodations (Freedman, 2000, 2005). For example, a student that has a visual impairment may require an audiotape of lectures and Braille text. This student may complete exams orally or using a computer.  Although the format for answering the questions on exams is different in this case, because the content of the questions and the substance of responses remains the same, this adaptation is an example of an accommodation.

Some students receiving learning support require more substantial supports than accommodations can offer. For these students, some or all of the grade-level standards may not be achievable during the academic year, and curricular modifications are needed.  A modification is an adaptation to the curriculum that fundamentally alters the grade-level expectations (Freedman, 2000, 2005). A Learning support team may determine that a 4th grade student who has a cognitive impairment will not be able to achieve some of the 4th grade language arts standards, such as “writing narratives of organized paragraphs using 4th grade vocabulary,” that academic year. This standard, then, needs to be modified.