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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!

Faith Barens, M.Ed. Faith Barens, M.Ed.

By Faith Berens
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

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:

  • disability
  • functional limitation
  • need for the specific accommodations requested

Acceptable documentation meets seven broad criteria:

  • It states the diagnosis clearly.
  • It supports the diagnosis.
  • It presents current information.
  • It outlines educational, developmental, and medical history.
  • It describes the functional limitation.
  • It justifies recommended accommodations.
  • It establishes evaluators’ professional credentials.

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:

  • Specific diagnostic information, such as test scores, visual measurements, or detailed medical information
  • Narrative information explaining the history of the student’s impairment and how the disability currently impacts the student’s need for accommodations
  • Information about the functional impact of the disability, such as the frequency, duration, and intensity of symptoms

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:

  1. Contact the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities department and request a paper student eligibility form. (The student eligibility forms are not available online.) Contact information is as follows:

    Phone: 212-713-8333
    Fax: 866-360-0114
    TTY: 609-882-4118

    College Board SSD Program
    P.O. Box 7504
    London, KY
    40742-7504

  2. Submit a letter of accommodations request, along with the paper eligibility form (obtained from the Services for Students with Disabilities department), the Teacher Survey Forms, and documentation of the disability to the College Board students with disabilities department. This packet will go to before the College Board “Documentation Review Board.”

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:

Important Tips

  • Be prepared. If your child was ever in public or private school, be sure to have or request copies of all their files. The College Board likes to see a history of the student’s difficulties and reasons why the student needs the requested accommodations.
  • Be organized. Keep all your important documentation and information in one central location, such as a large three-ring binder or file box. Should further documentation (such as homeschool/student education plans, special education records, medical records, or diagnostic testing) be requested, you will have it readily available.
  • Be creative. If your child was not diagnosed until high school (or maybe has never been formally diagnosed), then you may have to think creatively in terms of documentation. Gather evidence of your child’s struggles. These may be your own records, curriculum-based tests, student writing samples, spelling or math papers, etc. Perhaps there are letters or notes or progress reports from a coach, music teacher, Sunday School teacher, or co-op teacher that show areas of concern, difficulties, and/or struggle. Notes, report cards, and progress records from any specialists the child may have seen early on (such as a speech pathologist or occupational therapist) can be very helpful, as well.
  • Don’t give up. It may take several submissions of documentation before your child is approved. If your student’s initial request is declined, you can appeal by gathering further documentation and resubmitting the application.
  • Be encouraging. Help your student remain positive by being his advocate. Teach your student to think positively about his unique abilities and how to advocate for himself.
  • Be proactive. Consider asking your support group leader, your co-op leader, or some other qualified/designated person to apply through the Services for Students with Disabilities department of the College Board to become a Services for Students with Disability coordinator for your special needs homeschool community in your area. To learn more about this process, click here.

 

Helpful Links and Resources: 


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