At any given time, about a third of our students are receiving some type of accommodation for standardized tests. The most common accommodation is a form of extended time (usually 50% extra or “time and a half”), but there are other types: having a reader, not having to bubble in the scantron, materials in large print, and the list goes on. You should work with your school to request accommodations. You may have a case manager or your guidance counselor may serve as a “SSD Coordinator” for the College Board (which administers many of the tests your child may take: P/SAT, AP, SAT Subject tests). You will need supporting documentation whether you’re applying for accommodations for the College Board or for the ACT. And you should always start early rather than later when making these requests.
The College Board streamlined their request process in January 2017. Generally, schools can apply online for students seeking accommodations, but the request process can take up to seven weeks. Students really only need to answer two questions:
- Is the requested accommodation(s) in the student’s plan?
- Has the student used the accommodation(s) for school testing?
This seems fairly straight-forward, but there are a few caveats: the College Board will probably verify that the student has been using the requested accommodations for at least four months prior to making the request. In a public school, this usually means that the student has an IEP or a 504 in place. In a private school, there could be a variety of situations and you should seek guidance from your counseling office. The language in the College Board’s announcement email says, “Most private school students with a current, formal school-based plan that meets College Board criteria will also have their current accommodations automatically approved for College Board exams.” More information about the College Board’s application process can be found here: https://www.collegeboard.org/
For the ACT, there are two general categories of accommodations. The first is National Testing Standard time with Accommodations/Extended Time. Students taking the test under standard time, but with accommodations are also included here. Accommodations could include a wheelchair accessible room, large-print books, or marking answers in the test book. Extended time is simply time and a half (so 5 hours for the ACT without essay, 6 hours for the ACT including essay). The student takes the test with other large groups on a Saturday or Sunday national testing date.
Special Testing is the second category. This includes testing over multiple days, more than time and a half granted, having a reader, braille tests, etc. The student usually has a window of time, about three weeks, during which the school can administer the test to the student.
To see which type of accommodations are most appropriate for your child, please refer to this helpful infographic: http://www.act.org/content/
If a student applies for Special Testing but is denied it, he or she is automatically considered for National Testing with Extended Time.
There is more information, including what type of documentation is required, here:
What do I do if I suspect my child has a learning issue? If your child is in a public school, you can make a written request that a child study team evaluate him or her. For schools and IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) testing, typically the school will want to see that a student has gone through their intervention and referral services (I&RS) team and then a 504. Some schools will kick it back to these teams prior to IEP testing. There are several evaluations: psychological, social, and educational. You may need to give a reason why (i.e. a pediatrician or other medical doctor recommended it, your child’s grades have dropped significantly, your child was concussed). Whether or not the school determines that your child needs accommodations, you can always have your child evaluated privately, although this is the more costly route. Pediatric neuropsychologists can conduct full IQ batteries and note if there are discrepancies. Ivy Ed has names of neuropsychologists if you choose to go this route. In a private school, you should consult your child’s guidance counseling team and see what their procedures are. At a private school, your child may still be eligible to receive an evaluation and services through the county.
What happens if my child is not approved for accommodations or does not get all that he or she is seeking? We at Ivy Ed may be able to help. If your child has been working with us, and a tutor has recorded detailed notes about his or her performance, we may be able to write a letter of appeal in support of your request if we feel it is warranted. This is a rare occurrence, but we have successfully obtained accommodations for some of our former students. After one appeal, there’s not much more you can do unless new documentation or information is obtained (i.e. from a neuropsych report). Please remember that there are a bunch of colleges going the test-optional route, and there is more information at www.fairtest.org if you are considering this. In our experience, some students may choose to forgo the whole standardized testing experience if it looks like even after many hours of test preparation, their scores will not be at a competitive level (roughly a 21 for the ACT and a 1070 for the SAT, both approximately the 50th percentile). Please check with your counselor for more information about this.
There are many great resources out there to help parents of children with learning differences or disabilities. You are your child’s best advocate!
Some websites we have found helpful: