For students with disabilities, applying for and receiving accommodations for College Board exams (including the PSAT, SAT, and AP tests) has been a daunting task–sometimes more daunting than actually taking the tests! Parents and school administrators often had to submit extensive documentation, and even then sometimes the request was denied and would have to be appealed. The good news is that the College Board has heard the complaints and has changed its process, making it easier and faster for most applicants to get their accommodations approved.
The surest path to approval is to work with administrators at the student’s school, a process that should be getting much easier. School staff will still have to submit an accommodations request through the College Board’s SSD online system, but as of January 2017, most students with an IEP, 504 plan, or formal school-based plan will automatically have those accommodations approved. This means, for example, that a student who has the right to 50% extended time and a small group environment for school-based tests and has a formal, written plan in place should have this accommodation approved by the College Board without an arduous application process or the need to submit additional documentation.
Though the new process should be faster, the College Board still recommends submitting applications at least seven weeks in advance. For students hoping for accommodations on the SAT or PSAT in the fall, the best course of action is to apply the previous spring or summer to ensure enough time for approval.
Additional documentation is still required in the following cases:
- A family is submitting a paper application and not working through their child’s school
- The student is requesting more than 100% extended time (rare)
- The student does not have a documented disability
- The student is requesting College Board accommodations that are not included in the student’s formal, school-based plan
In addition, a few other changes have been made to the accommodations process:
- Students who qualify for extended time now automatically also qualify for extra breaks
- Students who qualify for 100% or more extended time will take the test over two days at their school
- An assistive-technology compatible digital test, delivered via flash drive, can give students access to a screen reader and other assistive technology
- An MP3 audio test replaces the cassette format
The College Board is also working to put additional accommodations in place for English Language Learners. As they said in their December 2016 statement: “Effective January 1, 2017, ELL students taking a state-funded SAT during the school day will have access to testing instructions in several native languages and approved word-to-word bilingual glossaries. In the fall of 2017, ELL students taking a state-funded SAT during the school day can also receive extended testing time (up to time and a half) and the opportunity to test in an environment with reduced distractions.”
Many students, parents, and school administrators are breathing a sigh of relief at the announcement of this easier accommodations approval process. With an easier, faster, and more streamlined process, students can now put their energy into what should matter the most—preparing for and taking their exams.