Accommodations for college entrance exams

As more Utah high schools are using the ACT, more students with disabilities are being afforded accommodations on this test that is used by many colleges and universities for admissions.

Requesting accommodations for college entrance exams appears to be a national trend, according to Education Week in its On Special Education blog post,   More Students Receiving Accommodations During ACT, SAT.

Nationally, as the number of students taking the ACT has increased in the last four years, so has the number of students asking for, and getting, extra time or other accommodations when taking the exam, the testing agency told me.

During the 2010-11 school year, 5 percent of all test takers were provided with some feature that was intended to adapt the test to their needs, ACT spokesman Ed Colby said, compared with 3.5 percent of test takers in the 2007-08 school year.

Utah is fortunate to have many schools footing the bill for administering this test (Although no longer funded, the legislature funded a two year pilot for ACT administration which many high schools will voluntarily continue as a measure of student competency.).  As a result, most Utah high school students with disabilities are being afforded accommodations on the ACT.  Across the nation, however, some  students may not be so lucky (although about 90% of requests for accommodations are granted for the ACT).

a Government Accountability Office report from late last year found that for some students with documented disabilities, getting accommodations can be a hassle. The testing companies have said that they have to be judicious in doling out special testing conditions to keep things fair.

This report concluded that

testing companies reported providing thousands of test takers with
accommodations in the most recent testing year, test takers and disability
advocates continue to raise questions about whether testing companies
are complying with the law in making their determinations. Justice, as the
primary enforcement agency under the ADA, has taken steps to clarify
how testing companies should make their determinations, but its
enforcement lacks the strategic and coordinated approach necessary to
ensure compliance. Without a systematic approach to reviewing complaints that it receives, Justice cannot assure that all complaints are
consistently considered and that it is effectively targeting its limited
resources to the highest priority enforcement activities. Continuing to
target enforcement on a case-by-case basis does not allow Justice to
consider what enforcement activities could extend beyond one case.

The report further recommended

that Justice take steps to
develop a strategic approach to target its enforcement efforts related to
testing accommodations. For example, the strategic approach could
include (1) analyzing its complaint and case data to prioritize enforcement
and technical assistance, (2) working with the Secretaries of Education
and HHS to develop a formal coordination strategy, and (3) updating
technical assistance materials to reflect current requirements.

It is imperative that Transition case managers provide the proper guidance and assistance to students with disabilities (SWD) and their families, regardless of whether or not the school administers the ACT.  The process for applying for accommodations and gathering the required documentation can be overwhelming and time consuming.  Taking the time to assist SWD to ensure that all the proper documentation is submitted is worth it in the end for them to be able to have the opportunity to take these college entrance tests.

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