Accommodations Toolkit

Preferential Seating: States' Accessibility Policies, 2021

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National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)

This summary of states’ accessibility policies for preferential or specific seating is part of the Accommodations Toolkit published by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).[1] The toolkit also contains a summary of the research literature on preferential seating.

Accessibility policies often have several tiers of accessibility features: universal features, designated features, and accommodations.[2] Some states considered preferential or specific seating as an administrative consideration. Some of this group of states included administrative consideration in the designated features section of their policy while in others it was a universal feature. Figure 1 summarizes how states included preferential or specific seating in their accessibility policies for students with disabilities in 2021. Table 1 shows how specific seating was included in the policies, while Table 2 contains additional details and specifications.

Figure 1. States’ Accessibility Policies for Preferential or Specific Seating for Students with Disabilities, 2021

Reading/ELA/Writing

  • Universal Features (U): 8 States
  • Designated Features (D): 21 States
  • Accommodations (A): 9 States

Math

  • Universal Features (U): 8 States
  • Designated Features (D): 21 States
  • Accommodations (A): 9 States

Science

  • Universal Features (U): 8 States
  • Designated Features (D): 18 States
  • Accommodations (A): 9 States

Table 1. Accessibility Policies for Tactile Graphics by State, 2020

U=Universal Feature, D= Designated Feature, A=Accommodation, ELA= English Language Arts, X = Allowed, SD = Allowed for Students with Disabilities, Blank cell = no policy found, N = Notes in Table 2

State

Reading/ELA/Writing

Math

Science

Notes

(See Table 2)

U

D

A

U

D

A

U

D

A

Alabama

Alaska

SD

SD

SD

N

Arizona

SD

SD

SD

N

Arkansas

X

X

X

N

California

Colorado

X

X

X

N

Connecticut

X

X

X

N

Delaware

X

X

X

N

District of Columbia

X

X

X

N

Florida

SD

SD

SD

Georgia

SD

SD

SD

Hawaii

X

X

X

N

Idaho

X

X

N

Illinois

X

X

X

N

Indiana

X

X

X

N

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

X

X

X

N

Massachusetts

X

X

X

N

Michigan

X

X

X

N

Minnesota

X

X

X

N

Mississippi

Missouri

X

X

X

N

Montana

X

X

X

N

Nebraska

X

X

X

N

Nevada

X

X

N

New Hampshire

X

X

X

N

New Jersey

X

SD

X

SD

X

SD

N

New Mexico

X

X

X

N

New York

SD

SD

SD

N

North Carolina

X

X

X

N

North Dakota

Ohio

X

X

X

N

Oklahoma

SD

SD

SD

N

Oregon

X

SD

X

SD

X

SD

N

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

X

X

X

N

South Carolina

X

X

X

N

South Dakota

X

X

X

N

Tennessee

X

X

X

N

Texas

Utah

X

X

X

N

Vermont

X

X

N

Virginia

Washington

SD

SD

SD

West Virginia

SD

SD

SD

N

Wisconsin

Wyoming

X

X

X

N

Total (Students with Disabilities)

9

21

10

9

21

10

9

18

10

Note: No policies were identified that specifically addressed English learners.

Table 2. Details and Specifications: States’ Specific or Preferential Seating Accessibility Policies

State

Details/Specifications

Alaska

Accommodation ­– Students may be seated in a specific location in the testing environment. For example, a student may need to be seated away from a heating/cooling vent, near a window for natural light, or near the test administrator’s desk. While seating is a local decision, students must be positioned in a suitable manner for testing (i.e., lying on the floor during testing is not appropriate). Additionally, it is not appropriate to seat a student in a location that is not visible to the test administrator, such as behind a bookshelf separating the student from the rest of the room. The use of study carrels to separate students and minimize distractions is allowable as long as the test administrator is able to effectively monitor student testing.

Arizona

Accommodation ­– Setting Accommodations:

These accommodations change the physical location or the conditions under which a student engages with classwork or assessments. Location choices may include a different room, a different seating location within the room, small group instruction, or a study carrel. Conditions may include the use of sound-blocking headphones or allowing “whisper reading” as long as others are not disturbed.

Who Benefits: Those students needing targeted instruction, those who find large group settings distracting, who are unable to effectively filter out background noise, and those who express a preference for small group or individual space to better focus will benefit from setting considerations. Students with specific visual or hearing needs may also benefit from special setting arrangements.

Arkansas

Designated Feature – Seating/Grouping Definition:

Specific seat location (e.g., sitting in the front to see sign-language interpreter), or testing in a small group or one-to-one

Type: Designated Support

Recommended Usage: Examinees with sensory concerns, examinees who are easily distracted, examinees with behaviors that may distract others

Personal Needs Profile Selection:

  • Special Seating/Grouping
  • Location for Movement
  • Individual Administration

Colorado

Designated Feature –  Administrative Consideration:

Seating students in specified locations in the testing environment during assessment is allowed, as determined at the local level. For example, a student may benefit from being seated away from the door or windows to minimize distractions or away from a heating/cooling vent. While seating is an administrative consideration, position students in a suitable manner for testing (i.e., lying on the floor during testing is not appropriate). Additionally, it is not appropriate to seat a student in a location that is not visible to the Test Administrator, such as behind a bookshelf separating the student from the rest of the room.

Connecticut

Designated Feature –  Separate Setting:

Students who are easily distracted, or who may distract others in environments such as in group testing, may need an alternate location to be able to take the assessment. The separate setting may be in a different room that allows them to work individually or among a smaller group, or in the same room, but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, with a whisper phone, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

Delaware

Universal Feature –  Student is seated or placed in a location that is most beneficial for learning and assessment. Select this option to provide students with preferential seating or a specific area in the room for testing.

District of Columbia

Designated Feature Administrative Consideration:

Student is tested in a specialized area or setting (e.g., front of the classroom, seat near the door, etc.).

Hawaii

Designated Feature –  Separate Setting Designated Support:

The separate setting may be in the same room but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

Idaho

Designated Feature – Separate Setting Designated Support:

The separate setting may be in the same room but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

Illinois

Designated Feature – Administrative Consideration for Specified Area or Setting:

Student is tested in a specialized area or setting (e.g., front of the classroom, seat near the door, library, etc.).

Indiana

Universal Feature – Preferential Seating:

Determined by the Test Administrator (TA). (Can be due to lighting conditions, seat arrangement, behaviors, etc.) The student can sit where the TA determines is the best seating arrangement for the student.

Maryland

Designated Feature – Administrative Consideration for Specified Area or Setting:

Student is instructed or assessed in a specified area or setting (e.g., front of the classroom, seat near the door, library, etc.).

Massachusetts

Designated Feature Seating in a specified area of the testing room, including the use of a study carrel.

Michigan

Universal Feature – Standard test administration practice includes: use of accommodated seating, special lighting, or furniture.

Minnesota

Designated Feature – Special settings: The assessment is administered in a special setting (e.g., certain lights, acoustics, seating arrangements).

Missouri

Designated Feature – Administrative Consideration:

Specific Seating or Room

Montana

Designated Feature – Separate Setting Designated Support:

The separate setting may be in the same room but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

Nebraska

Universal Feature – Universal Feature for Setting:

The student is provided a distraction-free space or alternate, supervised location (e.g. study carrel, front of classroom, alternate room).

Nevada

Designated Feature – Separate Setting Designated Support:

The separate setting may be in the same room but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

New Hampshire

Designated Feature – Separate Setting Designated Support:

The separate setting may be in the same room but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

New Jersey

Accommodation – Setting Accommodations:

  • Seating the student in the front of the room near the examiner or proctor
  • Seating the student facing the examiner or proctor

Universal Feature Administrative Consideration:

  • Student is tested in a specialized area or setting (e.g., front of the classroom, seat near the door, library, etc.).

New Mexico

Designated FeatureAdministrative considerations include preferential seating

New York

Accommodation Listed specifically for students who are deaf or hard of hearing

North Carolina

Designated Feature – Preferential Seating within the Regular Classroom

  • Preferential seating within the regular classroom (i.e., not in a separate setting) may be used for students for the administration of all tests within the North Carolina Testing Program.
  • Preferential seating may be appropriate for students who have difficulty maintaining attention in a group setting, students who use specialized equipment that may be distracting to others, or students with visual impairments who may need special lighting or a seat closer to the front of the room.
  • Preferential seating must be used routinely during classroom instruction and similar classroom assessments.
  • All preferential seating must be positioned in such a way that no student is able to see another student’s test documents.

Ohio

Universal Feature – Administrative consideration (in accordance with principles of universal design for assessment, these administrative considerations are available to all students).

Specified area or seating: The student sits in a specific place in the test setting, such as by the window for natural light or beside the test administrator’s desk.

Oklahoma

Accommodation – Students may need to sit close to the front of the room so they can see or hear more easily, increase physical access, or have access to special equipment.

Oregon

Designated Feature: Preferential seating: Provided by the school.

  • Seating to reduce distractions within the regular testing session.
  • Front of the class, close to the test administrator, etc.

Accommodation – Support physical position of student: A student who needs physical support to access the computer monitor, keyboard or assessment materials may be supported either using appropriate devices as used in the classroom (preferential seating, special lighting, increase/decrease opportunity for movement, provide position assistance, provide adaptive equipment/furniture) or they may be provided supports by an aide/educational assistant.

Rhode Island

Universal Feature – Preferential Seating: Student takes the test in a specific area of the testing room where they are most comfortable, including use of study carrel.

South Carolina

Universal Feature – Administrative consideration: Seat location/proximity

South Dakota

Designated Feature –Separate Setting Designated Support:

The separate setting may be in the same room but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

Tennessee

Universal Feature – Universal test administration conditions for any student includes:

  • being seated in a specific location within the testing room or being seated at special furniture

Utah

Designated Feature – Alternate location:

In some circumstances, distractions for an individual student or a group of students can be reduced by altering the location in which an individual student interacts with instructional materials or test content. For students who are easily distracted by the presence of other students, an alternate location allows students to work individually or in small groups. Changes may also be made to a student’s location within a room, such as away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners. Sitting near the teacher’s desk or in the front of a classroom may be helpful for some students. Physically enclosed classrooms (classrooms with four walls) may be more appropriate than open classrooms, and study carrels might also be helpful. Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

Vermont

Designated Feature – Separate Setting Designated Support:

The separate setting may be in the same room but in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, in a study carrel, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom). Some students may benefit from being in an environment that allows for movement, such as being able to walk around.

West Virginia

Accommodation – Student is given special seating arrangements. Placement of student where he/she is most comfortable or placement of student near proctor.

Instructional practice: Special seating arrangements for students who are easily distractible are provided within the classroom to improve focus.

When to select: Students who are easily distracted or may have a visual/auditory disability. The preferential seating may be in a specific location (for example, away from windows, doors, or pencil sharpeners, near the teacher’s desk, or in the front of a classroom).

Notes for implementation:

  • Changes in instructional and assessment seating locations can benefit students who are easily distracted.
  • Students with physical disabilities might need a more accessible location within the testing environment.

Wyoming

Designated Feature Administrative consideration for specified area or seating:

The student sits in a specific place in the test setting, such as by the window for natural light or beside the test administrator’s desk.

Attribution

All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

  • Lazarus, S. S., Quanbeck, M., & Goldstone, L. (2021). Preferential seating: States’ accessibility policies, 2020 (NCEO Accommodations Toolkit #10b). National Center on Educational Outcomes.

NCEO is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326G160001) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. The Center is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. NCEO does not endorse any of the commercial products used in the studies. The contents of this report were developed under the Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, but does not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Project Officer: David Egnor