Should I modify assignments or grades for students with disabilities?

Date Updated

The term modification is defined as an adjustment to an assignment or a test that changes the standard of measurement for the task. A modification is not the same as an accommodation. An accommodation is the practice of making the assignment or assessment more accessible to the student with a disability through changes in formatting, timing, setting, scheduling, and/or presentation. An accommodation does not change the standard of measurement for the task, only the accessibility of the task. A modification, however, changes the standard of measurement by altering the task or expected outcomes.

When determining whether or not to modify assignments or grades for students with disabilities, consider the following:

  • At what grade level is the student?
  • What are the student's barriers to successful participation in classroom assignments and activities?
  • Can these barriers be overcome by making accommodations that do not change the standard of measurement?
  • Is the student able to perform at the standard measured by the task or assessment?

Considerations for Precollege Students

The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) team, which should include students whenever possible, especially once they are over the age of fourteen, is the ultimate authority over the appropriate course of action for each individual student. If the student is college-bound, modifications in most classes would not be appropriate, since changing the standard of measurement would limit the student's ability to acquire the necessary skills expected of them in college.

Considerations for Postsecondary Students

In postsecondary institutions, modifications are not appropriate when a student is taking a course for academic credit. However, postsecondary institutions have systems in place by which students with disabilities can request and receive reasonable accommodations.


For more information, consult the DO-IT Knowledge Base article What is the difference between accommodation and modification? and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities in High School, published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET).