For someone with a disability, taking the ACT can be challenging because the test is timed, the proctor and test center are usually unfamiliar to the student, and a multitude of students test in the same room. Special testing accommodations can be made so that the student will keep his/her disability from interfering with showing his true knowledge and skills. As a high school guidance counselor, you play an integral role in helping these students qualify for special testing modifications while taking the ACT.
Preliminary steps for the student: Apply early
An application for special testing accommodations should begin early. Be aware of those students who have a disability and for those interested, set up an appointment with them preferably by their junior year. Inform them that they need to take some preliminary steps before you fill out forms to request special testing accommodations for the ACT. The deadline to have all forms turned in is four weeks before the test date. Two areas students need to concentrate on include: having proof of their disability and documentation of classroom accommodations.
Proof of Disability
Inform students that certain guidelines need to be met when establishing they have a disability. Students need to contact their physician or professional who works with them to provide a letter about the disability which includes the following criteria:
Professional’s name, title, and qualifications including credentials.
Explains the disability that was diagnosed.
Describes how the disability causes a limitation on certain life activities like learning.
Stipulates how the disability interferes with the student’s capacity to take the ACT.
Documentation needs to be current (written within three academic years).
Also, be aware of the areas of disability that are classified by the ACT:
Learning disability: a diagnostic test is given by a qualified professional that provides reliable, valid standardized scores.
Psychological Disability: (Attention Deficit Disorder/ADHD or Anxiety Disorder) a qualified professional gives an evaluation based on diagnostic results.
Physical, psychological, or emotional disorders: a qualified physician or professional provides detailed results from a complete medical or diagnostic examination.
History of Classroom Accommodations
The second area is documentation of classroom accommodations. If parents have requested testing so that an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan was set up to include certain accommodations for testing, documentation should be on file. Check the student’s file or with the special education teacher for records of extended time or other accommodations.
You play a critical role in helping students go through the submission process to request accommodations or extended time. Any form you fill out that is incomplete or missing a signature will cause a delay in processing the request for testing accommodations.
Have the student go to www.actstudent.org and click on ‘Register for Test’, then ‘Services for Students with Disabilities.’ Here they will select either ‘Request for ACT Special Testing’ or ‘ACT Extended Time National Testing.’
If ‘Request for ACT Special Testing’ is selected, you will complete the form’s first page, which includes items such as student information, test options (ACT or ACT Plus Writing), testing date, disability, test format and time requested. The second page provides documentation of the student’s impairment and test accommodations at school. The student and parent sign if the student is under 18.
Additionally, the student may request one of the following three choices.
Center Testing #1: (Standard time with accommodations)
Examples of this include allowing a diabetic to eat snacks while testing takes place or using large print test booklets.
Center Testing #2: (Extended time – 50% more time)
Testing is done at a regular test center, but students are allowed 50% more time. For
instance, you can have five hours to work on four tests for the ACT (normally 175 minutes long) or five hours and 45 minutes to work on five tests for the ACT Plus Writing (normally 205 minutes long).
Special Testing: (Testing can be done at school with 50% more time extension)
Some formats include testing the student at your school, allowing more time, testing over multiple days and alternate test formats.
The Raceland high school guidance counselor, Mrs. Ison, says, “The special testing option has enabled several of our students to be in a more comfortable environment and do a better job of making scores that are reflective of their achievement level. One student who took the test several times improved his score from 16 to 25, which reduced his college tuition fee.”
Christopher Harris, a diabetic high school graduate, was tested at his own school and commented, “I was so relieved that my high school guidance counselor tested me. I felt more relaxed at my own school, plus I was the only student tested. I could eat a snack whenever I needed one. The stress level was really reduced.”
The other selection you can make is ‘ACT Extended Time National Testing.’ This is filled out by you, the student, and parent. Students are offered additional time (50% more) or special testing accommodations. The student and parent sign the form if the student is under 18. You can complete the second page detailing when and who gave the diagnosis of the disability and documentation currently on file at the school (IEP or 504 Plan). Give copies of all ACT forms you fill out to students.
Guiding students with disabilities through the process of obtaining special testing accommodations offered by the ACT will help alleviate the stress that goes along with taking a college entrance test. You can feel a sense of pride when you help these students prepare for the next step of their educational pursuits.