SAT and ACT Testing Accommodations Update From A+

SAT and ACT Studying.jpgThere is good news for students anticipating taking any of The College Board’s standardized tests! The College Board has recently issued an announcement detailing how it plans to make the process for applying for testing accommodations easier. This article provides an informational summary. Those interested in reading the original announcement may access it here.

What is “a level playing field” in the “arena” of standardized testing? The phrase often indicates the belief that testing should be fair—that no student should have an advantage over another. However, testing organizations are now realizing that students are not all identical cardboard cutouts. What may be level to some can be rocky terrain to others.

Test accommodations provide special testing conditions for students who can demonstrate that testing under usual conditions would be a hardship and essentially unfair. Often accommodations consist of granting the student extra time or perhaps individual testing space. This can be requested for physical, mental, and/or behavioral needs. For example, an adult student who needed to take the GED (General Education Development) test in 2016 successfully petitioned for accommodation due to arthritis in her hands. Since the GED (in Pennsylvania) is administered on a computer, she would have been at a disadvantage when typing the essay. She was allotted extra time to finish writing. 

In theory, a condition that creates a barrier to learning and qualifies a student for an IEP (individualized education program) should qualify him or her for testing accommodations. In practice, it has not always been that easy—until now.

Although The College Board already had an accommodations request procedure in place that was updated as recently as August 2016, the new process will be, in their words, “streamlined.” According to president and CEO David Coleman, the motivation for the change was “to cut down on the time and paperwork needed to submit a . . . request.”  

Schools can now certify students to be eligible—and here is the key phrasewithout the need for additional documents." All that is necessary is that the students’ school officials answer a few questions. This change will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

Also effective on that date, students who are not native English speakers will be eligible for their own testing accommodations. These include:

  • Directions for the test in the student’s first language
  • Vocabulary assistance
  • Extra testing time
  • Individual or different testing space

In an article in The Washington Post on December 2, Valerie Strauss observes that The College Board’s announcement was met with “delight,” as the new procedure replaces “a timely and laborious process requiring extensive documentation.”

The change will affect the SAT, PSAT, PSAT/NMSQT, SAT Subject Tests, and all AP Exams.

As it is not a College Board test, the ACT test will not be affected, although interestingly enough, the parent company of the ACT test has made an announcement on the same subject. Catherine Gewertz, in an article in Education Week (November 14), noted that ACT Inc. will begin offering accommodations to non-native English speakers in the fall of 2017. These will be similar to those offered by The College Board, including extra time and vocabulary assistance (among other options).

A look at the accommodations page of ACT Inc.’s website revealed no current intention to change the accommodations request process for the general student population.

A+ offers proctored practice exams on Saturdays at our Gwynedd office. Students may also schedule proctored exams with accommodations on any weekday at our Jenkintown office. If you would like to discuss accommodations (or anything related to testing), please contact one of our knowledgeable Client Service Directors—Nathan Rudolph, Anne Stanley, or Susan Ware. They are available to answer questions, provide solutions, and assist you in achieving your educational goals. You may reach them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.

*Photo credit: Mer Chau

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