Hello again,

I get so many questions about this topic… so let’s see if this explanation helps.

Educators and parents often get confused about the difference between these. Remember: an accommodation does NOT fundamentally alter what is being taught or tested, and a modification DOES. A fundamental alteration changes the essence of what is being taught or tested. For example, providing a student with a reader (someone or a technology to read the text to him) on a reading lesson or test fundamentally alters the lesson or test. If a student uses a reader, he is not reading–he is being read to. That is a different skill set. Therefore, it is a modification.

Making these decisions arise in schools–and in many other settings. Do you remember Casey Martin, the golfer whose lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2001? That’s what the case was about. The whole country got a lesson in accommodations and modifications then!

Due to his leg impairment, Martin could participate in the PGA Professional Tour only if he was allowed to use his golf cart. His impairment substantially limited his ability to walk long distances (5 miles on that golf course, as I recall.).

Well, the Supreme Court analyzed the situation and came down on his side. It decided that the cart would NOT fundamentally alter the PGA Tour. And here’s the key: To do so, it had to analyze whether WALKING was fundamental to the game. If it was, Martin could not use the cart. If it was not fundamental, then he could use it. Based on the evidence it had, the Court decided that walking was NOT fundamental.

Importantly, the Court reminded us that accommodations should NOT provide an unfair advantage to the person. If the cart had done so, it would not be allowed. Based on the evidence before it, the Court found that the cart did NOT provide an unfair advantage. So, it was allowed.

Bottom line: decide what is fundamental. And go from there!

I hope this post is useful. Would love to hear! Miriam

The issue of report cards and transcripts comes up often. I get many email queries about it…

So, I’d like to share my several step process in developing report cards.

As I see it, the most important step is the first one. The school needs to be very clear about what the grades will mean. This can be either school wide or teacher-by-teacher. In either case, students and parents have a right to know what matters when it comes to grades.

Will they focus on knowledge? skills? effort? attendance? participation? Some of the above? All of the above? In what order of importance? Be very clear about what grades mean. Of course, different teachers can have different standards.

I hope this chart is useful:


1. Establish standards that are based on objective criteria or other educational justification.

2. Create clear uncomplicated standards that are fair and easy to understand.

3. Notify everyone! This includes students and parents.

4. Implement consistently. Build in the possibility for flexibility–that is, for making exceptions in rare situations. Have a procedure in place for these.

5. Remember–This is NOT rocket science!

6. Remember–Courts defer to educators who do the above.

7. Keep smiling. Education is where it’s at!

If this chart is useful, let me know!