A Parent’s Guide to Classroom Modifications

For kids with cognitive challenges, school can be challenging. If a kid is struggling, one potential strategy is giving them less schoolwork or simpler assignments. This is called a modification. It’s not the same as accommodation. Modifications can make school easier for kids, but they can have serious drawbacks.

Here’s what you need to know about educational modifications.

Defining Modifications

Most schools have educational standards for what kids need to learn in each grade. This applies to reading, math, and other subjects. For instance, third-graders are usually expected to learn multiplication. Modifications change these expectations. They’re usually used when a kid has trouble keeping up in school.

Take a third-grader who hasn’t learned addition. Schools may offer a modification where the kid keeps working, and their peers move on to multiplication. Or they may learn multiplication, but only with basic problems. Or they could have fewer test questions or less homework. Keep in mind that only learners with (IEPs) an have modifications. 

The Difference Between Modifications and Accommodations

Accommodations are not the same as modifications. Modifications change what a kid is taught or expected to do in school. Accommodations change how a kid learns or accesses the curriculum.

Imagine a third-grade class is told to read Kate DiCamillo’s chapter book Because of Winn-Dixie. However, Bret, a learner, struggles to read the book simultaneously with the rest of the class.

The accommodation could be to let Bret utilize text-to-speech (TTS) tech to read the book aloud. Like other dyslexia accommodations, TTS can help Bret keep up with the rest of the class as they read and learn about the entire book.

A modification could be that Bret has to read part of the book. Or they may be assigned a simpler book to read.

Pros and Cons of Modifications

Modifications are debated among schools, educators, and parents. They can make school less of a struggle for learners, including kids with cognitive challenges. The consequence of modifications can be that a kid learns less than their peers. He might fall behind on essential skills. Over time, this can put a kid at a big disadvantage.

For instance, some states mandate a high school exit exam to graduate. A learner that’s had modified classwork won’t be in a good position to pass this exam. Also, in some states, a kid who’s received modifications may not be eligible for a high school diploma. This will restrict the kid’s future career and education options.

Some kids with cognitive challenges need modifications in certain academic areas. For instance, kids with dyslexia can have challenges with spelling. The IEP team may decide that spending a lot of time learning to spell isn’t good for a particular learner’s time. The team may choose a modification that allows the learner to learn fewer spelling words and utilize spellcheck.

Kids who can’t yet work at grade level may also need modifications. For instance, if a kid is reading several grades below grade level, their IEP may include reading modifications. The IEP must have ambitious goals to help the kid’s progress toward the grade-level standard.

Experts recommend parents try accommodations before modifications. Another alternative to modifications is to utilize distinct teaching strategies to help kids keep up.

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