Students with disabilities are as entitled as any other students to take assessments such as the SAT. Per their disabilities, they might need accommodations to effectively participate. The SAT might not be a valid measure of ability without accommodations. The purpose of the accommodations is to minimize the impact of disabilities on performance, thus giving students with disabilities an equitable opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do. Accommodations aren’t an advantage; they’re a way to ensure tests measure what they’re supposed to measure.
If a student has an IEP, schools must make arrangements for accommodations outlined in the IEP to be available for state and local standardized assessments. Collegeboard, the organization that manages the SAT, has no obligation to identify students with disabilities or put accommodations in place without solicitation. Instead, parents and schools have to request accommodations from Collegeboard. A process is place for doing so. Schools typically initiate this process. Collegeboard actually encourages parents to go through the school for this process rather than embarking on their own. The most helpful advice in this article might be for parents to simply visit the Collegeboard website and follow the instructions for requesting accommodations.
To make a request for accommodations, the student in question must have a documented disability. Presenting the student’s IEP won’t be sufficient to establish this. A diagnosis via a psycho-educational evaluation or a recent report from a physician will be needed. The credentials of the evaluators must be included. Parents would be wise to explain to a physician exactly what the documentation must entail. Accompanying documentation must indicate how the disability will impact participation in the test. Not all disabling conditions will do this, resulting in Collegeboard denying some requests. Whatever accommodations are requested must be accommodations used on state and local tests. The IEP might be helpful in establishing this.
The accommodations typically sought include extended testing time, use of a word processor for essays, additional and longer breaks, presentation changes (such as large print), multi-day testing, and testing in a private room. Collegeboard will consider all requests, but the documentation accompanying the requests must prove need without question. Protocols are in place for the types of documentation needed to support requests for specific accommodations. For example, a request for extended time requires a teacher input form to be completed. The teacher is expected to explain why extended time is necessary for the student. Once again, the website itself is the best place to determine what will be needed to secure a successful request for a particular accommodation.
Timing is important for ensuring accommodations are in place on testing day. Collegeboard notes seven weeks usually are needed to process a request. Thus, the website shows accommodation deadlines that correspond with testing dates. Parents should begin the process early. Starting with the school is the best plan. Each school will have a point person for SAT coordination. Parents should contact this person to initiate the process. Periodically following-up can help ensure the school is doing what it must do.
When the process is complete and accommodations are in place, an eligibility letter will be sent to the student. It will include a code that is to be used for each testing session. Collegeboard doesn’t require a new application for accommodations for each test taken. However, the student should take the eligibility letter to each session.
Overall, parents should start the process as early as possible and should go through the school to complete it. Collegeboard.org is the most reliable source for current information about the process, but the school should have up-to-date information as well. Parents must be certain to follow the directions on the website when gathering the necessary documentation for specific accommodations. Patience is required along the way, but the importance of having accommodations in place can’t be overstated. Involving the student in the process would be a fantastic transition opportunity, considering how a college-bound student with disabilities will have similar procedures to follow with a campus office of disabilities. The process might appear intimidating, but it is valuable in the end.
Written by Phil Hartman