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 22

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Q22: Why are younger students generally not found eligible for Specific Learning Disability when a “severe discrepancy” model is used for special education eligibility?

A: Under California law, the use of severe discrepancy may be considered but must not be required [5 CCR 3030(b)(10)(B), 34 CFR 300.307(a)(1)].  Many school districts are by default requiring a severe discrepancy by not looking to other allowable methods in determining a specific learning disability for special education eligibility purposes. [Please refer to You Asked #23 for additional information].

In California, a severe discrepancy is defined as a difference between intellectual ability (“IQ) and achievement of 1.5 standard deviations (or more)*. For our younger students with suspected dyslexia that would mean a “severe discrepancy” in areas such as basic reading (or spelling) on standardized achievement testing.

For younger students (Kindergarten through 2nd grade), it would be very difficult to have this large of a gap between IQ and standardized academic achievement test scores in reading or spelling.  The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) explains: “although there are many tests that may be used early (in Kindergarten and beginning of first grade) to assess beginning skills in reading and spelling, the standards for average achievement are generous. A child in late Kindergarten or early first grade may only need to read a few letters and two or three common words to score well enough to reach a score of “average”. Compared to other young learners, students with dyslexia may not seem to be “behind.” ” [Source:  The International Dyslexia Association, “Just the Facts: Testing and Evaluation“].

IDA states that “research demonstrates that additional direct instruction provided appropriately, beginning in Kindergarten through third grade, can help all but the most severely impaired students catch up to grade-level literacy skills and close the gap for most poor readers.  Assessment is the first step in identifying these students early to make sure they receive the effective instruction they need to succeed.” [Source:  The International Dyslexia Association, “Just the Facts: Dyslexia Assessment: What Is It and How Can It Help?]

So, it is unlikely that a younger student will demonstrate a “severe discrepancy” on standardized achievement testing for the reasons given above but we also know that early identification and appropriate intensive intervention greatly increases the positive outcomes for our dyslexic students so what should be done with respect to our younger students?

Even before formal assessment, careful early screening of younger students beginning in Kindergarten can help identify students at risk for dyslexia.  According to IDA, screening should occur in the following areas (before second grade), “it is more important to focus an evaluation on the precursors of reading development. Measures of language skills, phonological awareness, memory, and rapid naming are more suggestive of being at-risk for dyslexia among young children than are measures of word reading, decoding, and spelling. Therefore, measures of phonological awareness, memory, and rapid naming are typically included in Kindergarten and beginning first grade screening tests that can identify children who need targeted intervention to improve these critical skills so these children can meet grade-level benchmarks.” [Source:  The International Dyslexia Association, “Just the Facts: Testing and Evaluation“].

For purposes of assessment, California regulations appear to acknowledge the difficulty in identifying a severe discrepancy especially in younger children and provide IEP teams with flexibility in applying these rules under 5 CCR 3030(b)(10)(B)(3) which provides for the following:

“If the standardized tests do not reveal a severe discrepancy as defined in subdivisions 1. or 2. above, the IEP team may find that a severe discrepancy does exist, provided that the team documents in a written report that the severe discrepancy between ability and achievement exists as a result of a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes. The report shall include a statement of the area, the degree, and the basis and method used in determining the discrepancy. The report shall contain information considered by the team which shall include, but not be limited to:

(i)    Data obtained from standardized assessment instruments;

(ii)    Information provided by the parent;

(iii)    Information provided by the pupil’s present teacher;

(iv)    Evidence of the pupil’s performance in the regular and/or special education classroom obtained from observations, work samples, and group test scores;

(v)    Consideration of the pupil’s age, particularly for young children [emphasis added]; and

(vi)    Any additional relevant information.”

* –  Please be advised that in California, IQ testing of African-American students is prohibited [refer to Larry P. v. Riles, 495 F. Supp. 926 (N.D. Cal 1979), 793 F. 2d 969 (9th Cir. 1984), 37 F. 3d 485 (9th Cir. 1994).  Also, see article from CA Association of School Psychologists (CASP Today Spring 2013 – Larry P. Edition, pgs. 7, 17)].

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