Recently I presented information on testing accommodations on a Facebook live recording. If you or someone you know has a student who needs or already received extra time or test modifications at school, you will want to learn more about getting appropriate accommodations on the ACT, SAT / PSAT or Advanced Placement exams.
Sometimes I don’t want to watch an entire video, so for those of you who want a quick summary, here are some of my notes.
I’m going to explain
- who gets extended time & why
- what you need to do to apply
- the review process
- questions you should consider before applying for accommodations
- resources for further questions
Once approved, accommodations are good for a student’s entire time in high school. If you have an 8th, 9th, or 10th grader, now might be your best time to get this process started.
Before I jump into my 5 points, if you know someone who might need to know this information, please tag them and share this video—share with friends, parent groups, sports teams, homeschool groups, and educators. College admission is hard enough as it is, no need to take these important exams without appropriate accommodations.
Who gets extended time & why
Students who have proven mental or physical needs. Sometimes we think of the common needs for ADD / ADHD or anxiety, but there are many students who need some test accommodations:
- arthritis—couldn’t bubble answers
- narcoleptic – extended time in case she dozed off for a few moments during the test.
- more severe brain / processing issues – up to 3X regular time with a reader
- insulin pump diabetics—extra time to monitor blood sugar, go to the bathroom, and have snacks as needed
- students with written expression issues may be allowed to use a computer to type essays
Goal: to level the playing field and provide each student with an appropriate environment to test.
Complaint: But won’t they get an advantage?
- Not really an advantage– ADD / ADHD extra time is a blessing and a curse.
- Time & a half takes a four hour exam and makes it a SIX hour ordeal
- 2x & 3x time can break the test up into multiple days—twice the stress
- I think we all agree it is better to have a hard time with the SAT or ACT and NOT have a traumatic brain injury, narcolepsy, etc.
College Board & ACT are very aware of the need for fairness—both on side of test taker with needs, but also on the side of not giving extra time to those who don’t need it.
What you need to do to apply
Applications for testing accommodations should originate from your school.
- Faster—counselor, head of school, case manager, or testing coordinator can submit electronically, substantially reducing processing time
- Reduces the chance of needing additional documentation—schools have a process
- Less hassle—let the professionals do their jobs.
You can request on your own—homeschool—but if you are trying to go around your school to request accommodations, expect added scrutiny.
Here are the basic issues you should expect to address in any request
- What is the need? Is there a diagnosed disability?
- Does the need justify testing accommodations? (Not all conditions require testing accommodations. I might have a missing leg, but unless I can show how that justifies changes in my testing…)
- Does the student receive these accommodations at school? Is there an IEP or 504 currently in place with these accommodations listed?– This is a big point.
- Does the student currently USE the requested modifications at school?
- Documentation supporting the request—current, clear statement of diagnosis and how it presents a functional limitation, specific accommodations and why they are justified, professional qualifications of the evaluator, any “testing” (neuropsychological or psychoeducational) done to come to these conclusions
ACT has a nice summary of requirements:
- VALID — not result in an undue burden, as that term is used under the ADA, or fundamentally alter that which the test is designed to measure.
The Review Process
Standard review takes 6-8 weeks. It can be more at busy times of the year or if you are asked to submit additional supporting documentation.
In general, your request will walk through these steps:
- initiate with your school – follow up to make sure request has been submitted
- ACT / College Board receives your request and may ask for additional information
- Request is reviewed and decision is made
- Notification of approval (or not) and which accommodations
- If denied, why and an opportunity to appeal – Neighbor was denied by ACT 3-4 years ago because all of their documentation was outdated—from elementary school. Had to decide if it was worth it to appeal
Questions you should consider before applying for accommodations
- Is my child currently receiving accommodations? And are they helping?
- Will accommodations help or hurt? (used for good or evil)
EX: focus / attention issues – 6 hours may not be better than 4
- Will the student actually USE testing accommodations if granted?
potential client didn’t want to be seen as “different”
extended time for ACT—walking out earlier
- What other choices do we have?
AP exams—not many alternatives—take with or without extended time
Test optional colleges or community colleges where SAT / ACT not required
How ACT & SAT administer extended time is different. You may get different accommodations from each.
You make the decisions. BUT sooner you start the process, the more options you have.
Resources for further questions
Please post questions on the College Prep Results Facebook page. I am happy to answer and will be honest when I can’t give you an answer. When I don’t know, I turn to the College Board or ACT student support offices. Over the years I have found them to be very helpful and professional. (Keep in mind they are charged with protecting issues of fairness and they do get a number of bogus requests, so if they question your request, don’t take it personally.)
College Board (SAT, PSAT, AP Exams)
844-255-7728 (toll free)
Thank you all for sticking with me through all of these details. I know it can seem like a lot—especially if this is new information. But it is so important that we get better educated as parents, mentors, and educators.
Unfortunately so many of our school counselors are overwhelmed—they have case loads of 500 – 1000 students and sometimes little details like ACT accommodations fall through the cracks—especially for our independent kids who are getting good grades. And a lot of our non-traditional schools or homeschool co-ops may not have someone with extensive experience (or any experience) in this area, so please help spread the word.
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