Testing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
What types of accommodations are available?
Based on their individual needs, students with documented disabilities are eligible for testing accommodations on all standardized tests. Each assessment service (such as the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP Exam) has its own specific guidelines, but accommodations generally include:
- Extended time (from 50% to 100% more than the standard allotted time)
- Longer breaks between sections or more frequent breaks
- Alternate formats (Braille, audiocassette, large print materials)
- Readers, scribes, or computers to read and record responses
- Small group settings or testing over multiple days
Who is eligible for accommodations?
To be considered for accommodations, a student must provide evidence of a disability which limits a life activity AND which requires testing accommodations. This would include conditions that impact the ability to hear, speak, read, write, concentrate, or sit for extended periods of time. Specific conditions might include physical impairments (such as impaired hearing or eyesight, arthritis, cerebral palsy, or loss of a limb), chronic health conditions (such as diabetes, cancer, ADHD, or asthma), or emotional difficulties (such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety). There is no requirement that the disability be "life long," so students with temporary disabilities, such as a broken limb, may also qualify for accommodations. For example, a right-handed student with a broken right arm may be granted one-time or limited-time accommodations, based on the severity and duration of the impairment.
How do students apply for accommodations?
Students applying for testing accommodations should work with their school counselor to submit the appropriate paperwork. For the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams, a completed Student Eligibility Form must be submitted to The College Board at least two months prior to the test date. This form requests information about the nature of the disability and the use of accommodations within the regular school setting. Students with current IEP or 504 plans should submit the documentation with their applications. Educational testing is also required. Students who have not used accommodations in the past must include a detailed explanation describing their current need with the application. Additional information about these tests these tests is available at collegeboard.com/ssd. Students applying for accommodations for the ACT can find information online at ACTstudent.org or in the ACT registration booklet.
How is eligibility for accommodations determined?
Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis through documentation review. Documentation may include psycho-educational evaluations, psychiatric evaluations, and neuropsychological or neurological testing. The testing must be current, completed within three years of submission for educational issues and within twelve months for psychiatric issues. All summaries must be on letterhead paper and written by a professional qualified to conduct assessments and to offer educational recommendations, such as an educational psychologist, neurologist, or psychiatrist. The documentation must also include the following six specific elements:
- a diagnostic statement identifying the disability, the date of the most recent evaluation, and the date of the original diagnosis, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD)
- a comprehensive description of the diagnostic tests, methods, and criteria used to make the diagnosis
- a description of the current functional impact of the disability, background information, test results reported as standard scores, and a narrative interpretation
- the treatments, medications, assistive technology, and accommodations currently being used by the student, their effectiveness, and recommendations for additional accommodations
- a description of the expected progression or stability of the disability over time
- the credentials of the diagnosing professional, such as their certification, licensure, or documentation of professional training
Remember: Students who have been granted accommodations for prior testing are not automatically guaranteed similar accommodations for different tests. The assessment services require ongoing verification of continued eligibility for accommodations at future administrations. Verification should be submitted at least one month prior to the test date.
What kind of testing is required to document a disability?
A comprehensive testing battery is necessary to document the student's strengths, weaknesses, and learning needs. Evaluations must include measures of broad cognitive functioning through intelligence tests such as the Wechsler or the Stanford-Binet. Processing tests are used to assess visual-spatial ability, memory, fine motor skills, executive functioning, and attention. Academic or cognitive testing includes such measures as the Woodcock Johnson or Wechsler Achievement to assess reading, writing, and math skills. Social-emotional measures investigate issues such as depression or anxiety, which could impact student performance. Instruments used in the evaluation must employ age-based norms and report results as standard scores or percentile ranks.
Where can I obtain additional information about educational assessments?
Educational testing is typically conducted in a single session of three to four hours, in an office or at the student's home. During this session, the student will be asked to solve academic questions, manipulate blocks, and complete rating scales. The evaluator will also review the student's academic history and may ask to see results from previous assessments, report cards, or school meetings. The cost of a comprehensive assessment ranges from $2000 - $4000. In addition to the test results, the evaluator will write a report documenting the nature and severity of the disability, recommendations for accommodations, and the rationale for each accommodation. This information can then be submitted to the testing companies to help determine eligibility.
For additional information about testing, accommodations, or student support, contact the authors, Marcia Rubinstien or Laura Seese, or ask your high school guidance counselor to explain the process used at your school.
Marcia Rubinstien M.A., CEP - www.edufax.com - 860-233-3900
EDUFAX, 345 North Main Street, Suite 317, West Hartford, CT 06117
Laura Seese, Ph.D. - www.edadvancement.com - 860-254-5451
Educational Advancement, 14 Old Farms Lane, West Suffield, CT 06093