Standardized Achievement Tests-(SAT) Accommodations for Exceptional Students Are Truly A Reality

A funny think happened to me in my last Parent Teacher Student Organization Meeting (PTSO). Discussion surrounded the availability and practice sessions for the next SAT in our area. Being the dedicated disability advocate that I am, I couldn’t contain my excitement knowing that I would be able to focus on an issue which is very close to my heart; teenagers with a disability having the same opportunity to attend college as the regular education students!

If you know me personally, or have read any of my articles, you are well versed in my intentions to make certain each student with a disability has the same opportunities as anyone.

A school’s point of view

Contacting the guidance counselor, I assumed, (ass-u-me), that these students would be included in any SAT discussions. After all, aren’t schools supposed to provide equality under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a “Free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities”? This means that these students must be afforded the same services and “cannot be excluded” or “denied services.”

I should have realized that where students with a disability are concerned, there usually seems to be some sort of messy rule in which I have to plead to get the message out. So, consequently, I make no friends and when teachers or staff see me walking through the door, they turn and run. Not an easy life, but one that I have come to terms with.

As my story continues, I emailed the guidance counselor in charge of the testing. I asked if it would be ok, to inform the parents of the special education students, that accommodations are available at the testing center if their student plans to take the SAT in March.

Asking the counselor if it would be “ok” was in my mind, a mere formality. I wasn’t’ prepared for what happened next. Her immediate response was cold and to the point, but I will admit, receivers’ of an email can’t really know the tone of which an email is sent. She wrote, “We do not mass advertise the SAT or ACT accommodations.”  Advertise? This is not a request for spirit wear. This is a service for the students who qualify. If administration planned to notify all students of their ability to take a practice session, then certainly, the special education students should be notified of the accommodations available as well. After all, both these scenarios, (a practice session and accommodations), aim to give all students a fighting chance for the best possible academic outcome.

While her response was unusual, it did not surprise me. Awkward as it was, I manged to keep myself from sending off a “what for” type email and one that I would most likely regret.

Her next response was even more confusing. “Each case manager is responsible for bringing it to the attention of their caseload.” This is a wonderful concept, but sorry folks, not happening, no can do. Call me a pessimist, and I humbly accept the title, but the case manager is not going to volunteer this information. I’ve been in this business too long, and have never seen nor heard such a tale.

But let’s just play the “devil’s advocate” and say the school will notify the student of available accommodations. In this particular school, one case manager, also the department chair is out on maternity leave, while another is out on medical leave. Then, there are a couple substitutes. You see where I am going with this? Lots of confusion and some serious “head scratching” going on. Your child will be overlooked. Period.

SAT Accommodations? Say what?

It goes back to what I have been saying for years; “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

Most parents are not even aware accommodations are available for the SAT. Many parents feel their student would not be able to pass the SAT, let alone attend college, so parents don’t realize this is an option.

Understanding that not all special education students will go to college and many will not take the SAT, I needed to find a way to get to the students who would qualify.

This is why the school, “good hearted” as they are, should communicate this benefit. If the case manager does not mention it, then the parent does not know about the accommodations and here we go round in circles.

Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

The only way to get SAT Accommodations for the exceptional student is to ask for them. Usually, whichever supports are in place on the IEP, are provided during the test.

Parents can request accommodations through the child’s case manager and can read about the process at the College Board Website.

Please don’t wait for the school to offer it to you. The school might have good intentions, but there are so many children in the system. You must be the creator of your child’s destiny.

This is a process. You will need to file a request with the high school ahead of time. This can involve some serious red tape so start a month or so ahead of the testing date. Keep a copy of the form so you have proof on testing day.

Students with a disability have a right to take the SAT and with the best possible testing setting. For this reason, accommodations need to be scheduled before the test, and the only way to get it done is to take care of it yourself.

Photo credits: ClipArt

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