Study links academic success

by Stacy Jo

A recent University report suggests providing accommodations for students with disabilities might be a key factor in improving their classroom performance, further closing the educational gap between them and the general population.
The University’s National Center on Educational Outcomes released a report this summer exploring the performance of students in Kentucky with disabilities.
The report, “Performance Trends and Use of Accommodations on a Statewide Assessment,” revealed that the use of accommodations, such as paraphrasing, interpreters, scribes and technological assistance, generally improves the performance of students with disabilities. The study also showed that these accommodations sometimes helped students with disabilities progress more rapidly than the general population.
According to the report, students with disabilities still generally perform academically lower than students in the general population. The study found this disparity between performance levels increases at higher grade levels.
But the results of the report suggest the gap between students with disabilities and other students is closing.
However, Martha Thurlow, the center’s associate director, said performance improvements are not solely due to improved accommodations.
“They are the effects of an educational reform that has taken place over several years,” Thurlow said.
The report reflects the performance of more than 99 percent of Kentucky’s student population in grades 4, 8, 11 and 12 over four years.
Officials assumed that by allowing students with disabilities to use accommodations, their true performance levels — which are obstructed by the disability — would be revealed.
“It’s important for students themselves to know about accommodations so they can ask for what is needed,” Thurlow said.
Curtis Griesel, computer accommodations coordinator for Disabilities Services and Academic and Distributed Computing Services, takes computer accommodation requests, such as voice recognition and modification of print font size, from students with disabilities.
He said because each disability is unique, accommodations should be individualized in order to be effective.
“Any time you can pay more attention to individual needs, it doesn’t surprise me that you’d see better performance,” Griesel said.
Griesel said while the results of the report sound like good news for students with disabilities, most students strive to ultimately progress to the workplace. He said persuading the job market to use the same accommodation standards that are available in education is the next step.