September 1, 2011

Extra Time for SAT Granted After HSLDA Letter

Parents and students can really feel the pressure when it’s time for the college admissions tests! As the time for registering for the SAT and ACT draw near, parents may suddenly begin to wonder if their child would qualify to be granted extra time to take the test, or some other type of accommodation.

The Godoys, (name changed to protect their privacy) members of HSLDA, submitted solid proof from qualified professionals that their son had a disability of the type that would usually entitle a student to extra time. The College Board then asked the parents to have one of their student’s teachers fill out a routine form entitled “Services for Students with Disabilities Teacher Survey Form.”

The form sought information about what a classroom teacher had observed: the student’s disability and its classroom impact, accommodations he received, whether he was given extended time, whether the student used the accommodations effectively and if learning outcomes actually improved.

The parents were, for all practical purposes, their son’s only teachers. Believing they could answer the questions better than anyone, they completed and submitted the form.

The Board then rejected their son’s request for extra time. They said the form must instead be completed by a “tutor” using the tutor’s own letterhead.

The family sought our help. Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff wrote the Board a letter explaining that there was simply no one in a better position to supply the requested information than the parents, since the student was homeschooled. Woodruff pointed out that even if the parents hired a tutor, he would have virtually no experience with the student and his comments would therefore be of dubious value.

Shortly after we faxed this letter, the Board reversed course and granted the young man extra time for taking the SAT.

Seeking special accommodations is a long and complicated process. Many families are disappointed to find that merely having “special needs” does not in and of itself qualify a student for accommodations. It is required that the student have a diagnosed disability. Some families lose hope when they discover too late that the process can take years—not months or weeks.

We were delighted to be able to help the Godoys with their unique problem. Most denials of accommodation, however, are for other reasons. HSLDA would not be able to provide valuable assistance in many of those situations.