Recently, the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT, PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT, SAT Subject Tests, and the AP exams as well as its competitor, ACT, Inc., which administers the test bearing the same name, announced major changes to their testing accommodations policy for those students with documented disabilities. A variety of testing accommodations are offered to eligible students depending on their disability. There are a wide range of disabilities that can be accommodated from ADHD to visual impairments. Time accommodations include extended time, extra breaks, and extended breaks. There are also numerous writing, reading, and seeing accommodations, such as the use of a typewriter for the essay portion of the test or use of large-type test booklets. In the past, students seeking eligibility for testing accommodations had to pass through a number of “hoops” based on the individual requirements of the College Board or ACT. Now, the process has been significantly streamlined.
Beginning January 1, 2017, there is now a simplified request process for submitting a testing accommodations request. This process builds on the College Board’s earlier August expansion that allowed schools to directly approve testing accommodations for students currently receive accommodations through either an IEP or a 504 Plan (for public school students) or through other plans sanctioned by private schools without the need for additional documentation. Under the new policy, if the school testing coordinators can affirmatively answer “yes” to two simple questions, the eligible student can be approved to receive most testing accommodations on any of the College Board exams. These two questions are: (1) Is the requested accommodation(s) in the student’s plan? and (2) Has the student used the accommodation(s) for school testing?
Also, in the past, the SAT was offered only in the English language, and limited English proficiency was not treated as a condition for an accommodation for support in one’s native language. Effective January 1, 2017, English Language Learners (ELL) who take a state-funded SAT during the school day will now have ELL testing supports, including access to testing instructions in several native languages and approved bilingual glossaries. In the fall of 2017, ELL students can also receive extended testing time and the opportunity to test in an environment with reduced distractions. This change by the College Board matches the ACT policy in providing support for students enrolled in an English Learners Program.
The ACT, Inc. announced that it was aligning its policy with that of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and approving accommodations for students currently receiving them at their home schools. Candidly, applying for accommodations for the ACT is still more of a hassle than applying for College Board accommodations. But if you want to take the ACT and feel that exam is more suited toward your strengths, it’s well worth it!
To be eligible for ACT accommodations: the disability must be diagnosed and documented by a credentialed professional; the disability must impact performance on the ACT; and the student must receive and use similar accommodations at school. Students submit required documents along with a request for either National Extended Time (for students seeking extended time (50% time extension) to complete the exam) or National Standard Time with Accommodations (for students require a variety of other accommodations). Detailed instructions for applying for accommodations on the ACT (called “Special Testing” on the ACT) can be found in a 7-page pdf. The request form must be completed by the school’s special testing coordinator, and signed by the school official, the test coordinator, the examinee, and the parent. In addition, the ACT announced that students in a designated English Learners Program could apply through their high school counselor to automatically receive testing support for the ACT starting in the fall of 2107. The ACT will be offering the same English Learner Supports as the College Board.