September 2016 Newsletter
How To Apply for Special Testing Accommodations for the SAT
Navigating the Gauntlet of the College Board’s Documentation Review Board Process for Homeschoolers … Hang on, this could be a bumpy ride!
By Faith Berens
Recent changes to the College Board website, which lacks specific guidance for homeschool students with disabilities, have left many HSLDA member families confused about how to request and apply for special testing accommodations for the SAT.
Additionally, the College Board’s new online application process is available only to public and private school guidance counselors or “disability coordinators.” This means the process of requesting testing accommodations is different for homeschooled students than it is for public and private schooled students.
The good news is that our HSLDA special needs consultants have helped many member families through this process.
So in this newsletter, we want to continue that record of success by throwing you some key tips that will be time-savers and “life”-preservers as you navigate the turbulent waters of the College Board accommodation application process.
Purpose of Accommodations
The purpose of accommodations for the College Board exams differs from accommodations in the educational setting. The main objective of securing accommodations for the College Board exams is to provide the student access to the test material and a way to show how he or she performs when engaging with the test material.
Keep in mind that accommodations do not change the requirements or lower standards for the individual—they simply provide a level playing field, so to speak. Accommodations are not intended to help the student get a top score, but rather to help the student access the test material, work efficiently, and/or have access to medically necessary accommodations.
Types of Accommodations
The number one requested accommodation is extended time, particularly for students with dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities. Some students may require print accommodations or use of a scribe or computer test. Still other students, such as those with anxiety disorder or other medical issues, may need frequent breaks.
According the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities website, “Typical accommodations include Braille and large-print exams, extended time, use of a computer for essays, and extra breaks. These are not the only accommodations available—the College Board will consider all requests for students with documented disabilities.”
Showing Documentation of the Disability And Need for Accommodations
You should understand that having a disability does not automatically entitle a student to accommodations. There must be proof that the young person actually needs the requested accommodations.
A general letter stating only the diagnosis of a student’s particular disability is usually insufficient for gaining access to accommodations. More helpful is a paper trail of the student’s difficulties, documentation of accommodations provided in the educational setting and/or for standardized testing, reports from diagnosing professionals, tutors, etc.
What’s more, the documentation requirements vary. For example, a student with a learning disability should provide cognitive and academic testing, while a student with a visual disability should provide documentation from a visual examination.
To be eligible for accommodations, students need documentation that shows evidence of the student’s:
Acceptable documentation meets seven broad criteria:
If you have your child evaluated, make sure the diagnostic professional provides documentation that is detailed and highly descriptive of your student. The professional’s report should include the following:
Documenting Functional Limitations
The College Board has a Teacher Survey Form available for download. This is a helpful, supplemental means of substantiating a student’s need for accommodations.
According to the College Board, “The survey collects qualitative information documenting the nature and degree of the student’s daily school-based functional limitations in subject areas such as reading, writing, and math as caused by the diagnosed disability. It also collects information related to the student’s use of requested accommodations and the effectiveness of those accommodations.”
We encourage parents to request that coaches, co-op teachers, music instructors, or other outside teachers complete teacher survey forms to include with the their student’s documentation packet.
For further information about documentation requirements, click here.
How To File a Request for SAT Accommodations
At this time, homeschool parent-administrators may not use the College Board’s online tool to apply for special testing accommodations. Instead, homeschooling parents must request testing accommodations for their child through the Documentation Review Board process. Here’s how you can do that:
You or your student will be notified in writing whether your accommodation request
has been approved or denied, or if further documentation is required.
If you have more questions about this process, check out this list of FAQs on the College Board Website.
Start the Process Early
We encourage families to begin this process early because it is quite lengthy and time-consuming. The College Board states that the process may take up to seven weeks once the application for accommodations is complete. However, if a student is granted special testing accommodations, then those will remain in place for the student’s high school career—students do not have to reapply.
For the College Board’s Accommodations Request Deadlines, please visit this page.
How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT
We discourage parents from allowing students to take the SAT the first time “for practice” without the needed accommodations, as this may greatly hinder the student’s chances of being granted the accommodations. Rather, we recommend students practice for the test by taking a test prep class or utilizing test preparation materials and booklets at home.
Here are some resources to help your student prepare for the SAT:
Helpful Links and Resources: