Q: If my child already has an IEP, 504 or Educational Plan, shouldn’t they be all set for the ISEE, SAT, ACT, AP and other exams?
Many of my clients are surprised to learn that there are many accommodations specific to standardized testing for the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam), SAT, ACT, AP and other exams that are not typically included in a student’s school educational plan (IEP, Section 504, or private school’s educational plan) that your child may need and qualify for. One simple example of an accommodation specific to standardized tests is the ability to circle the answers directly in the test booklet, rather than having to fill in the bubbles on the answer sheet. I assist my clients in identifying these types of accommodations and I also recommend that the IEP or 504 be amended, to include these “standardized-test specific” accommodations.
Q: Why should we start this process early?
Starting early ensures that you have enough time to obtain and submit all required documentation for the necessary accommodations. It will also provide enough time to file an appeal, if necessary. Another reason to start early is so that you can obtain the accommodations for the PSAT and thus be eligible for merit scholarships that are based on PSAT scores.
Q: Who is eligible for accommodations on ACT or SAT?
Some examples of the types of disabilities that would be considered for accommodations are: Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Visual or Hearing Impairment, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, speech and language disorders, and medical conditions (concussions, traumatic brain injuries, etc.). Both College Board and ACT have rules regarding what type of documentation is required and how recent the evaluations/documentation must be, depending on the type of disability.
Q: What if I am the parent of a child who I believe is having learning issues and is struggling in high school but has not been diagnosed and therefore does not have an IEP or 504 plan?
I would recommend working with the school and consider private psychoeducational testing to identify a previously undiagnosed learning disability. I have found that many students with learning disabilities can compensate well in elementary and middle school and “hit a wall” in high school, as the demands are greater. It is important that any learning disability and the necessary academic and standardized testing accommodations be identified as early as possible in high school. This will enable both the student’s overall academic success and the student to perform to their highest potential on a level playing field vs. their peers on standardized tests. I also provide referrals for my clients to qualified Educational Psychologists or Neuropsychologists who can test in an efficient and effective manner.
Q: What types of accommodations are available?
There are many types of accommodations available, such as: extended time (50% and 100% for reading and/or mathematical calculations), multiple day testing, use of a scribe, use of a computer for essays, large print test booklet, record answers directly in test booklet (as opposed to answer sheet), wheelchair accessible room, breaks as needed, use of a reader, small group setting, auditory amplification system, permission for food/medication, etc.
Q: What accommodations should we apply for?
It is important to consider your child’s individual needs for the standardized testing environment. Most of my clients are surprised to learn the many different types of “standardized test-specific” accommodations that are available for their disability.
Q: How do we apply for accommodations?
I recommend that the high school testing coordinator submit the request for accommodations, as they have the most experience in doing so. I provide my clients a cover letter, which clearly summarizes all of the requested testing accommodations and substantiation. I also prepare a “comprehensive substantiation packet” to be included in the school’s testing accommodation request. This packet contains all the supporting documentation (evaluation reports, doctors’ recommendations, etc.) that all have the specific accommodations included. I have found that this increases the likelihood of the accommodations being granted the first time, without having to appeal with follow-up documentation.
Q: How long will this process take?
Once the documentation is assembled and the substantiation packet completed, the accommodations for PSAT/SAT and ACT can take up to 7 weeks to be granted. If any accommodations are rejected and an appeal is required, additional time will be necessary in order to obtain additional documentation and re-apply.
Q: Should we incorporate my accommodations into my test prep?
I recommend doing so as much as possible, so as to simulate the testing environment, timing and test procedures, when you are preparing. You can request any practice test modifications from the College Board or ACT as well (i.e. large print practice tests). I would also recommend seeking the support of a highly skilled tutor who has experience in working with students who need accommodations.
Q: Can the accommodations decision be appealed?
Yes, and my experience is that you may have to, which does take additional time. It is better to get all of your documentation together in the proper format the first time, so as to make the process go smoothly. If an appeal is needed, I can assist you through that process.
Q: What happens on test day?
Your school testing coordinator should advise you on this. Often students that require testing accommodations will have individualized testing and may be testing at a different location.
Q: Do accommodations roll over to future test dates?
Yes, once you are approved for testing accommodations, they carry over to future test dates. I would also suggest keeping a copy of the acceptance documentation as it may be utilized for graduate school entrance exams in the future.