Testing Accommodations for Grade School

This page contains important information about accommodations for testing for school exams, state testing, and College Boards.

An accommodation is a “support” for students with disabilities or significant difficulties related to test-taking.  Students who struggle with reading, math, writing, attention and impulse control, and emotional challenges may qualify for this type of support if needed.

Not all students who struggle will qualify for specific accommodations: many children are able to learn the skills necessary to overcome their challenges and get by without needing this extra support.  If your child is struggling with test-taking, it is worthwhile to ask about testing accommodations as well as other strategies for learning test-taking skills.

Typical Accommodations

While testing accommodations will be different depending on the need of each student, here are some typical supports that are helpful for struggling students:

  • Additional time
  • Quiet, separate space or corral with noise-canceling headphones
  • Test items read aloud
  • Enlarged text
  • Computer for typing essays
  • Frequent breaks

School Testing Accommodations

There are a few ways that a student may receive accommodations or support in a grade-school setting:

  1. Special Education: Students who qualify for an IEP may receive accommodations as part of their overall education plan.  For more information about Special Education, click here.
  2. 504 Plan: Students with disabilities who are not in need of Special Education may have a 504 Plan.  Testing accommodations may be part of this plan. For more information on 504 Plans, click here.
  3. Response to Intervention: Many schools have a tiered intervention process where students receive increasing levels of support within general education.  These accommodations (may be formal or informal) are likely to include options available for all students, such as a quiet space or extended time on non-state testing.
  4. General School Policies: In many private schools, students have choice over where they take their exams, using a computer, and attention supports such as noise-canceling headphones.  These informal accommodations may be documented on report cards as an option a student chose to access.

State Testing

Specific accommodations on State tests (such as STAR testing) require formal accommodations through Special Education or a 504 Plan.  You will need to go through the eligibility process to determine if your child qualifies for either of these levels of support.

To formally request testing accommodations (or any type of support), contact your Principal or “Learning Specialist” to ask about the process.  This usually starts with a Student Study Team or SST meeting to review the student’s records and discuss appropriate next steps.

College Board Accommodations: SAT, PSAT and AP Exams

Testing accommodations on College Boards are available for any student with a documented disability.  Eligible disabilities include conditions such as vision impairment, physical disabilities, medical impairments, and learning disabilities.

To qualify for accommodations for a Learning Disability or ADHD, you must have the following:

  • A documented disability: This requires a psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment, records from your IEP or 504 Plan, or a medical report.
  • A history of accommodations on school testing: This may be formal accommodations through an IEP or 504, or a documented history of receiving extended time or computer access for writing.
  • Evidence that participation on the exam is impacted: The nature of your difficulty must specifically impact you in the exam environment, i.e. if you have a hearing disability it would not impact your ability to take a written test.
  • Evidence that the requested accommodation is needed: In my experience, it is most important to document that the accommodation is necessary for the student to be able to participate in the exam, and this is best shown by a history of needing similar accommodations, formally or informally, throughout schooling.

Visit the College Board website for more information on the requirements, deadlines, and typical accommodations for the SAT, PSAT and AP exams.

Contact me for more information about an assessment for testing accommodations.  A short consult can help you determine if pursuing accommodations is right for your child, and then how to proceed.

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