You Asked! – Question 26

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Q26:  How can students with dyslexia receive accommodations for the SAT or ACT?

A:  College is an option for students with dyslexia, but preparing for College, College Board (SAT) and ACT exams should start as early as possible in high school.

Freshman Year – Sophomore Year:

•  Meet with the 504 Coordinator or Special Education Staff to ensure appropriate accommodations are documented in your student’s IEP or 504 Plan.   Sometimes students are given accommodations, but the accommodations are not documented in their plan. For example, students are allowed to use a calculator for math tests, but the accommodation of a calculator is not documented on the plan.

 To receive college accommodations, colleges may require testing to be current and comprehensive and include testing scores. In most cases, this means within the past three to five years. Families should ensure all accommodations that a student may need in college are included in their current assessment report. Students in Special Education mustbe evaluated at least every three years (Triennial Assessments1) and student’s with 504 Plans may be re-evaluated in accordance with IDEA regulations2. Therefore, you can request the district to re-evaluate your student.

•  What if your struggling student does not have an IEP or 504 Plan? The first step in determining if your student has a disability and requires special education services would be to make a written request to the district for an evaluation. Review DREDF Sample Letters and Forms and ACT’s Policy for Documentation.

Sophomore Year:

•  Schedule a meeting with the school’s Testing Coordinator to understand the process for each test. Plan on requesting accommodations for the exam(s) your student will take: PSAT/ NMSQT, ACT, SAT, PSAT 10, or AP Exams.

•  Assist your school’s Testing Coordinator and ensure your student will receive appropriate accommodations by gathering the necessary documentation (IEP, 504 Plan, Psychoeducational/Neuropsychological Evaluations). Describe the specific accommodations requested, and explain why they are needed. Include information about your student’s history of receiving school accommodations and current use of accommodations.

>  As of January 1, 2017, the College Board (SAT) will use a new streamlined process for requesting testing accommodations for students.  The new review process means that the College Board is allowing automatic approval of accommodations in more situations. In most cases this includes students with an IEP, 504 Plan or a formal school-based plan at a private school. The school Testing Coordinator submitting requests for accommodations will only need to answer two questions: Is the requested accommodation(s) in the student’s plan? Has the student used the accommodation(s) for school testing?

If the answer to both of the above questions is yes, eligible students can be approved to receive most accommodations on College Board tests.

>  The accommodations your student may be eligible to receive will vary based on his/her needs and situation. Review examples of College Board Accommodations.

»  The four-function calculator accommodation must be approved and is appropriate for students who have a disability that impacts their ability to perform mathematic calculations.

>  Because the SAT/ACT accommodation approval process may include a thorough review of all information provided, it can take approximately 2-7 weeks. The process can take even longer if a request for testing accommodation(s) has not been fully approved or if it requires additional documentation.

>  The student’s history of receiving accommodations in school is important in the SAT/ACT review of requests for accommodations. Teacher Survey forms can help substantiate a student’s need for accommodations when it is not listed on their plan. ACT Teacher Survey Form and College Board Teacher Survey Form.

 If your student has an IEP, their Transition Planning Services must start by the time the student reaches 16 years of age and should be updated annually. The Transitional IEP3 should include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals relating to education and, if appropriate, college goals.

 The PSAT and PLAN/Pre-ACT can help students determine the test that best suits them. The summer before Junior year, students should take practice SAT/ACT. SAT Practice Test and ACT Test Prep Resources.

Junior Year-Fall Senior Year:

•  Schedule to take the SAT and/or ACT. Ensure that the correct accommodations are in place every time your student takes the exam. Don’t wait until test day to find out that a necessary accommodation has not been requested! To be safe, students should bring their Accommodation Eligibility Letters to the test site.

 By the Junior or Senior year, if your student has a diagnosed disability, but does not have an IEP or 504 Plan, it may be difficult to receive the necessary SAT/ACT accommodations. Meet with your Testing Coordinator and provide all relevant documentation. You can still make a request to the school district for a comprehensive assessment to determine eligibility for special education or under Section 504. It may be necessary to consult with an outside private evaluator.

>  To be eligible for accommodations on College Board exams, a student should have documentation showing evidence of the following:

»  The disability

»  The degree to which the student’s activities are affected (functional limitation)

»  The need for the specific accommodations requested

>  Documentation Tips:

»  Do provide detailed documentation supporting your student’s need for the specific accommodation requested, not only the student’s diagnosed disability.

»  Don’t rely on doctor’s notes or IEPs. These are not sufficient to substantiate a request for accommodations. Provide conclusive statements with supporting information documenting your accommodation.

»  Do provide test scores, including subtest scores, where applicable.

•  Fall of Senior year is the last chance to take ACT/SAT tests before regular college application deadlines.

*Important College Board (SAT) Updates:

 English language learners (ELL) will have access to testing supports and extended time (if approved). For more information contact: Western Regional Office.

*Important ACT Updates:

 Starting in 2018, ACT will begin offering students the opportunity to take the ACT test in the summer. The first ACT summer test date will take place July 2018, increasing the number of national ACT test dates from six to seven.

 Starting in the fall of 2017, ACT will begin providing supports on the ACT test to U.S. students who are English language learners (ELL). Refer to ACT Policy for Supporting ELL.

Links to Helpful Forms and Documentation:

ACT Teacher Survey Form and College Board Teacher Survey Form

ACT 3 Step Checklist for Student and Parents Requesting Accommodations 

ACT Quick Start Quick for Requesting Accommodations

ACT Accommodation Information

ACT Policy for Accommodations Documentation

ACT Test Accessibility and Accommodations

ACT Preparing for the ACT Test Special Testing

College Board Accommodation Information

College Board Western Regional Office

DREDF Sample Letters and Forms

28 CFR Section 36.309 – Examinations and courses

ADA Testing Accommodations


1 Triennial Assessments [CA Education Code Section 56381]

2 [Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights: Protecting Students With Disabilities-  Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities, Question #29.]

3 Transition Services [34 CFR Section 300.320(b)]

Author: Lori Chang, Parent Advocate

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You Asked! Question 13


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Q13:  Student was assessed for Special Education eligibility and was denied. I believe my student has dyslexia. School disagrees.  What can I do?

A:  Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at District’s Expense: If you disagree with a school district’s assessment, you must specifically ask the district to pay for an independent educational evaluation (IEE). It is very important that you specifically state that you are requesting an IEE and that you are in disagreement with the District’s assessment. You are not required to specify why you are in disagreement unless you choose to do so. A template IEE letter can be found at

When the school district receives your request for an IEE, the school district has only two options: Fund or File. That is, the district must either pay for the independent evaluation (Fund) or file for Due Process (File), claiming that the district assessment is “appropriate.” If the district decides to go to a hearing, and the hearing officer determines that the school’s evaluation is appropriate, you have a right to the independent evaluation, but not at public expense (34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502; Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56329(b)). The district may ask you to identify specific areas of disagreement with its evaluation, but this cannot be used to delay the district’s response to your request (34 C.F.R. 502(b); Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56329(b) & (c)).

Under federal regulations, the district must respond to your request for an IEE “without unnecessary delay” (34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502(b)(2)). Under current California case law, “unnecessary delay” has been found to be more than ninety days (Pajaro Valley Unified Sch. Dist. v. J.S., 47 IDELR 12, 50 (N.D. Cal. 2006)). If the district fails to respond by either paying or filing for due process, it has failed to comply with the law. You could file a compliance complaint to ask the CDE to determine whether the school district should fund an IEE under those circumstances.

Note:  A parent does not need to choose an evaluator from a school district list. However, a school district may need to know more about evaluator(s) you select, in order to determine whether he/she meets the qualifications to administer the IEEs. If an evaluator the parent selects does not meet district criteria, parents must be given full opportunity to explain/request why this person, with this particular expertise is necessary to conduct the IEE. Determinations must be made on an individualized, case-by-case, basis.  Please refer to the attached Wrightslaw article on “Independent Educational Evaluations: Must Parents Choose an Evaluator from School’s Approved List?

Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at Your Expense: You can always obtain and independent educational evaluation (IEE) at your own expense and the school district must consider the results of an independent evaluation in any decision regarding the provision of a free appropriate public education to your child. The results may also be presented as evidence at a due process hearing (34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502(c); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56329(c)).

Once you have obtained the IEE and are satisfied with it, provide a copy to the school district and request an IEP meeting to review the assessment. You should inform the district in writing of the recommended services or placement in the IEE that you are requesting for your child. This will allow the district time to provide you with “prior written notice” if the district refuses to provide the services or placement recommended in the IEE.

Also, be sure to let the school district know that you want someone to attend the IEP meeting who is authorized to respond to the IEE on behalf of the school district. You are responsible for paying for an assessment that you have obtained on your own, unless the district has agreed to fund it. However, if the district accepts the recommendations made in this assessment, you may be able to seek reimbursement from the school district.  (Source:  Special Education Rights & Responsibilities by Community Alliance for Special Education and Disability Rights of California, pages 2-16 through 2-19

An excellent article regarding IEEs can be found here:

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