By Kelly Heritage, Noble Academy College Testing Coordinator
Standardized Testing - Two words that hold a lot of weight for high school students. Especially when they are utilized as part of the criteria for undergraduate admissions. For decades, colleges and universities have used the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT (formerly the American College Test; now known only as the ACT) as important components of the college admissions process. Both exams’ purpose is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college as well as provide higher education institutions a common data point that can be used as a tool to compare applicants. For many high school students, earning a particular score on the SAT or ACT is a goal they begin working toward early in their high school careers. In order for all students to have equal access to the content in these exams, The College Board, who manages SAT, and ACT, Inc. allow students with documented disabilities and disorders to take the exams with approved accommodations.
As the College Testing Coordinator at Noble Academy, one of my primary responsibilities is to ensure, to the best of my ability, that our students receive the accommodations they need in order to approach these exams on a level playing field, with the optimal chance of success. “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to fairly compete for and pursue...opportunities by requiring testing entities to offer exams in a manner accessible to persons with disabilities. When needed testing accommodations are provided, test-takers can demonstrate their true aptitude.”
Each testing entity has their own process as to how accommodations are applied for and subsequently approved. However, both College Board’s SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) and ACT’s TAA (Test Accessibility and Accommodations) base those decisions on the following:
The student has a documented disability or disorder
The student has received a diagnosis from a qualified professional
The student has documented accommodations recommended based on their diagnosis
The student uses these accommodations on a regular basis in the classroom
Depending on the student’s approved accommodations, they will either take the SAT or ACT in a regular testing center or at their home school. In recent years, many of the most common accommodations such as 50% extended time, small group testing, preferential seating, and recording answers in a test book, have been provided at regular testing centers.
Some accommodations cannot be provided in a regular testing center, so students approved for such are assigned to their home school to test. I, or another Noble staff member, am able to administer the SAT and ACT at school to those students. Some common accommodations that require a student to take the SAT or ACT at their home school are: having a reader (typically a mp3 audio version of the test), having 100% extended time, and being able to use a computer word processor for the optional essay.
Navigating this part of the college admissions process can be daunting. In order to educate parents on the testing process and the differences in these two exams, I hold testing meetings in the fall and in the spring. I also try to be readily available to parents and students who have questions via email or phone, and am able to sit down with parents who find face-to-face meetings on this topic more helpful.
This type of high stakes standardized testing can often be anxiety-inducing. Students face both internal and external pressures to earn a certain score. It is my hope that by educating students and their families on the elements and procedure of college-readiness testing, facilitating the accommodations requests and appeals, and maintaining availability to offer school-based testing at each of the national testing dates for the SAT and ACT, I can help make this process one that is clear and void of any additional stress!
1U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Disability Rights Section. (2010). ADA Requirements: Testing Accommodations. Retrieved from https://www.ada.gov/regs2014/testing_accommodations.html