The Level Playing Field: Unconcealing Diploma Exam Accommodation Policy


  • W. John Williamson University of Calgary
  • W. James Paul Associate Professor Faculty of Education University of Calgary



hermeneutics, accomodations, high stakes - testing, disability studies, diploma examinations, Alberta


The authors, using a specific exemplar of standardized high-stakes testing and testing accommodations for learners with diagnosed disabilities in a Canadian province, open up, for conversation and critique, the myth of the accommodations metaphor of “leveling the playing fieldâ€. By utilizing Disabilities Studies perspectives and literature, alternative interpretive readings of commonplace accommodations practices, as well as the experiential data of one of the author’s experiences managing exam accommodations at the school level, the authors not only critique the myth of reasonable, fair and equitable learner accommodations for those high schools facing standardized exit examinations, they also offer, alternatively, suggested ways forward that they believe re-conceptualizes practices associated with framing accommodations for all learners and not just those deemed to have educational disabilities. When all learners are offered without prejudice diverse ways of demonstrating their learning, knowing, and achievement then all students are engaged on level playing fields.

Author Biographies

W. John Williamson, University of Calgary

PHD student, Interpretive studies in Education, University of Calgary. Diverse Learning Coordinating Teacher, Calgary Catholic School District.

W. James Paul, Associate Professor Faculty of Education University of Calgary

Jim Paul, at the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, is engaged in academic teaching and research in contemporary curriculum design, development, implementation and evaluation and active / inquiry-based instructional theories and practices.