The process of seeking testing accommodations for students with disabilities for college entrance exams such as the SAT and the ACT can initially be daunting and somewhat intimidating for parents and students alike. While it may seem like the test publishers are trying to make access to testing accommodations impossible, the truth is that they are trying to make sure that students who require testing accommodations receive them, and that anyone else who is trying to manipulate the system to obtain unnecessary testing accommodations does not.
There are three basic steps to this process:
- You must first first register your child online to take the SAT or ACT. Go to the web page for the exam that your child wants to take and complete the registration process there. The web pages that you will need are the following:
www.act.org. You will be asked to select a test date, upload a photo of your child for test security purposes, select a specific administration date, and for the ACT – to select taking the exam with or without the writing component. The decision about which ACT to take is based on what the colleges you will be looking at, and whether they will require the writing portion of the ACT for admission decisions. When in doubt, I would suggest taking the ACT WITH the writing test. Better to take it and not need it than to NOT take it and find that the college you want to apply to requires it.
- Next – your child must be registered for the desired accommodations he/she is seeking This process ONLY begins when a student applies for testing accommodations. Each test publisher has a specific set of procedures which must be followed in order to determine which testing accommodations may be granted. TEST PUBLISHERS DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY GRANT THE ACCOMMODATIONS LISTED IN THE STUDENT’S CURRENT IEP. For each testing accommodation requested, the test publisher will request documentation from the school district to support the request. The most important thing they want to see is that the testing accommodation being requested is being used by the student in his/her daily course work, and that there is current educational testing which supports the use of the requested accommodation. IT IS THE TEST PUBLISHER WHO GRANTS OR DENIES THE ACCOMMODATION REQUEST AND NOT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT.
In the search box on the home page for the SAT or the ACT, type in the phrase “Students with Disabilities”. Then follow the instructions provided. For the SAT, the parent and student must sign a request form allowing the school to make application for the desired testing accommodations online. This form may be downloaded or obtained in your child’s guidance office. Once signed, it is returned to the individual in your child’s school who coordinates SAT/ACT testing. For the ACT, the parent must download and complete a portion of the request for testing accommodations, turn it in to the guidance counselor, and the school will complete the remainder of the application and file it. IT IS URGENT TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE FILING DEADLINES FOR TESTING ACCOMMODATIONS. The deadline for requesting accommodations is typically about six weeks before the actual testing date. If your child misses this deadline, he/she may still take the exam under standard testing conditions, but no testing accommodations will be provided.
Some students and parents actually make the informed decision to take the SAT or the ACT for the first time without testing accommodations to obtain a “baseline” set of scores which may be compared to the non-disabled (general education) student population. If the scores are acceptable for the student’s purposes, they do not take subsequent administrations with accommodations. If the scores are not what the student or family believe represents the student’s true ability, it is at that time that the student applies for testing accommodations. This decision is a personal one for each family to make on its own.
- Once a request for testing accommodations has been submitted, the test publisher will inform the family of the decision in a formal letter sent to each student’s home address. The student must bring a copy of this letter with him/her on the day of the actual test. A copy of this letter is also sent to your child’s school.
Test publishers provide detailed information about the process of obtaining testing accommodations on their respective web pages. If your child has a Section 504 Accommodation Plan based on a medically diagnosed disability, the test publisher will request the following when the application for testing accommodations is submitted:
A letter from the medical provider currently treating the child, on the doctor’s letterhead, and must state the following;
- A clear statement of the medical diagnosis or disability
- The date that the disability was first diagnosed
- Who made the original diagnosis
- The medical tests or procedures used to make the diagnosis
- Whether the student is still under the doctor’s care for treatment
- The nature of the current treatment, including any prescribed medications
- The exact testing accommodation being requested
- A statement about how the requested accommodation is justified by the medical diagnosis, called a functional limitation statement.
The functional limitation statement is the most important part of your doctor’s letter. It describes how the medical diagnosis or disability impacts the student’s ability to perform on the SAT or SAT and why the requested accommodation is necessary.
All too often, physicians supply parents with a letter stating a child’s diagnosis along with a general request for testing accommodations. It is highly probable that without a functional limitation statement from your doctor, your child’s request will be denied.