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Meet Linda J Silver

Linda J. Silver, M.S., Ed.S. is the Executive Director and Founder of Silver & Associates Educational Consulting Solutions.


Six Insider Tips for SAT/ACT Testing Accommodations

T’is always the season when it comes to SAT and ACT with numerous test dates available throughout the year.

For most students, signing up for these standardized tests simply involves completing a form and paying a fee.

But for students who need accommodations, the process is more complicated.
I’ve been through the process, both with my own children and as an advocate in the public and private sector.

Here’s what I have learned:

#1- Just because you have the same diagnosis does not mean you require the same accommodations.
I recently worked with a student who was diagnosed with anxiety. He had a 504 Accommodation Plan and not an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and was already receiving additional time to test. After a long conversation with the student, I realized he needed to be tested over the course of multiple days which was supported by his psycho-educational evaluation instead of the standard morning block testing.

It’s not a typical request for a student with a 504 Accommodation Plan but public schools generally have a more extensive paper trail needed to make this happen. So, after consultation with the school testing coordinator we requested the additional accommodation through ACT and it was granted.
For him, it made a big difference in his ACT score.
The family was so pleased they referred me to a friend whose daughter also had a documented diagnosis of anxiety.

But not every child with anxiety needs the same accommodations and she attended a private school.
Section 504 law covers public school. Private schools may or may not have 504 Accommodation Plans or IEP’s. The paper trail is generally not as robust in a private school which means you need to do your own legwork, sometimes provide your own paperwork and make lots of calls, which brings me to my next tip.

#2-Call the testing centers several times before applying for testing accommodations. Even if you ask the same questions, additional information can be used to your benefit.
I called the ACT accommodations department on three separate occasions and received three distinctly different answers to the same question regarding private school students’ requirements for requesting accommodations.

But I was determined to find a way. So, I started thinking out of the box and gathered additional documentation to help bolster my student’s case. Here is what I learned:

#3- Submit your application for accommodations way before the deadline.
SAT and ACT have people who review denied accommodation requests. If your request is denied, you can resubmit the application with additional documentation as long as you have enough turnaround time.

#4- Include a parent letter with your SAT/ACT accommodation request.
I received this suggestion from one of the ACT staff members. What I have learned is the importance of sticking to the facts in the letter and show examples which support the psychologist’s recommendations for additional testing accommodations.

#5- Lobby your school for creative scheduling accommodations when needed for SAT/ACT.
Just because the school tells you, “This is how we have scheduled in the past,” does not mean it is the best scheduling option for your child. Some schools prefer to schedule students who need accommodations after school. For a student diagnosed with ADHD, the after-school option may be doomed to failure as it may coincide with the time the medication wears off. If your child has anxiety, the long wait until after school testing may create difficulty focusing during the course of the day. The anxiety continues to build so by the time they start the test they are unable to test. Testing over several Saturdays, or first thing in the morning would be a better fit for these students.

Which brings up another point, for religious reasons, students can test on other days besides Saturdays.
If your school is insistent on a specific testing schedule or location, try to be persuasive and explain why something is needed or necessary. If you can offer alternative solutions and the request is legitimate, the school will usually be receptive and work with you.

#6- Hire a 504 advocate to help you navigate the system and work with the school.
An advocate can provide solutions which often the parents nor the school have explored. For example, at one school, all students with accommodations were scheduled to be tested in the learning lab but for my private school student with an anxiety disability, the learning lab was anxiety provoking. So, I met with administration at the school, we did some creative brainstorming and found an alternative location that was not anxiety producing for the student.

An advocate generally meets with the student on a private basis and has experience asking the right questions and can provide solutions. While most schools, both public and private, have a testing coordinator, the testing coordinator does not always know the student well enough to be an advocate. Having a relationship with the student promotes conversation and information which may not appear in the paper trail.

Most importantly, an advocate saves you time and gets results. We apply for accommodations regularly and are seasoned navigators. And isn’t your time worth saving?

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