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Thursday, March 30, 2006


Cindy Wilson

I wholeheartedly agree with this article. As a parent of 3 children with varying disabilities diagnosed from age 2 to 8, my children were denied all accomodations except time extension, even though they've had many accomodations in place since elementary school which has "leveled the playing field" for them.

With accomodations, my kids are doing grade level and honors work. Without accomodations, their test scores drop as low as the 6th percentile.

College Board does not accurately assess anyone. It can only tell how well a student can do on their particular test under their setting.

In the real college world, my children will be able to use a laptop to take notes, to write their essays and papers and work with their professors to be accurately assessed. I know because my oldest (who did not get any test accomodations from College Board) is a junior in a top rated college and carrying a 3.85 cumulative average. She has been on the Dean's List every semester. Her SATs were low, but her achievement is high. College Board DID NOT accurately assess her!

Joel Sax

That child you described could have been me. (Interestingly, though I scored in the 600s on English, my Advanced Placement English was a 5. How would the College Board explain that, I wonder.)

Nancy S

The college board has brought me to a near nervous breakdown. My son is a gifted child with ADHD and some related LD issues...specifically, slow processing and a non verbal learning disability.....particular problems in Math. All documentation along with professional recomendations were submitted. Eventhough computer access was a recomendation,and denied by the College Board...he can live with that. What will help my son, and all he is asking for, is time and a half...esp for Math. After taking many practice tests...we saw a SIGNIFICANT increase in his score, merely by incresing his time by 50%. He has been denied extra time..despite the extensive documentation. I am up a this hour because I am distraught and frustrated. I have no idea, nor does his Psychologist why the CB would deny this request. Any comments are welcome.

Andrea J.

My son appears to one of the rare cases for which accommodations were recieved for both 50% extended time (received last year) and a computer accommodation (received two days ago). After six months of work including an initial request and a 53 page appeal, he has been granted a computer for essay portions. He is diagnosed Gifted/ADHD/LDs/Dysgraphic. College Board initially refused the computer accommodation due to lack of documentation of severity in both fine motor and written language. Like other psychologists, she too was surprised. Additional tests to add a measure of fine motor skills was performed. Also, a conversation with a staff member at SSD of CB revealed a few things. They are skeptical of applications where a 504 Plan was recieved in high school. At their suggestion I had principals of previously attended schools write a statement describing informal accommodations. I put together a paper trail of supportive evidence all the way back to first grade, which included report cards and teacher evaluations/suggestions. In addition, CB suggested that I include handwriting samples. Although they stated that both a severe deficit in both fine motor and written language is required "at this time" to recieve the accommodation under dysgraphia, they do look at the entire case for their decision. Already frustrated, I was further disheartened from any hope of getting the accommodation when CB added that it was very rare to recieve a computer accommodation. I encourage applicants to start the process early, expect an initial rejection, speak with CB on the phone to find out what you can do to help your case, and appeal the decision. I hope my experience will help other students recieve the accommodation they deserve.


Andrea J didn't leave her email address, but a number of frustrated parents of smart kids -- college-bound kids -- with LDs are talking at the ADHD Message board



At the message board, someone said,

"Requests for accommodations are up by 500% and CollegeBoard is granting only 15% of the applicants with IEPs at our high school since the new SAT started last year. "


More quotes from a different board (college confidential)--different parents speaking, separated by asterisks.

Collegeboard in particular works like crazy not to accommodate students who have shown to compensate successfully: they actually state that fact.

The College Board is incredibly sticky these days about providing accommodations, due to being taken advantage of like crazy during the 1990's.

In order to qualify for additional time, a student must have a documented disability, and have received additional time as an accommodation on a 504 plan or IEP; that accommodation must have been in place for at least at year.

In terms of dxing for slow processing speed, there are multiple testing subtests and measures needed, not just one or two.

It is much more difficult to qualify for accommodations from the College Board than it used to be, but I think this tightening of rules benefits those kids who truly need the time, not just those who would like the extra time anyway.


And again (to other posters), I would appreciate not resurrecting arguments on previous threads about abusers of elastic testing rules, & how therefore the Collegeboard is just ever so justified in their overall brutality regarding the general subject. The appropriate response (of CB) would have been merely to scrutinize each request & insist on the stated verification, versus the way they did respond, which was to *eliminate* accommodation from those who had proven documentation of it. The documentation in itself does NOT qualify a student for an automatic extension of time. Thanks for repeating the rules that I do know, AllMusic, including the slow processing speed variations that I also know, but I do not share your sanguine view of CB. One of these days they're going to be hit with a big time lawsuit.


Whereas a friend of mine whose D has severe processing problems who was only diagnosed in 9th grade was denied accommodations. I think the key seems to be diagnosis prior to high school seems to help with the granting of accommodations. My friend's D like yours always attended private progressive school's or had tutoring off site and her parents never pursued the official diagnosis and now it is haunting her. She has above a 4.0 with several ap's yet barely broke 1000 if you count both verbal and math. She is one who would clearly score higher with more time.


Just a general comment: the purpose of the academic adjustments are to level the playing field for the student with disabilities; to take the disability as much as possible out of the equation. The idea is to test the student's knowledge, not their disability. So if you think that extended time for testing will make a significant difference for your child, and if you believe that it is worthwhile to spend the money for testing, go ahead.

csdad & AllMusic,
Of course you're both correct about the *opportunity* (esp. past tense) to abuse the system. However, even previously there were ways that a careful evaluator could have discerned between the genuine & the fraudulent, as you observe. One way is to look at the tests themselves that are being administered, including the measurements & the credentials of the one doing the measuring. CB could have done it then; they could still do it now. I object both to the degree/scope of their overreaction (punishing the present population for the sins of the past) and for the extension into 2 yrs. The reason for the latter is this:

It is can be esp. difficult to recognize LD in the cleverly compensating student. I have spoken to other professionals about this; their conclusion is unmistakable: the higher the IQ (& accompanying that, the greater success of the student in previous masking), the more delayed & difficult the discovery is. It becomes very problematic to diagnose such a student in a time frame sufficient to meet regulatory demands. On top of that, students become in a practical manner more independent in h.s., with parents having less access (& often desire or necessity) to scrutinize, track academics. (No parent conferences; schedule decisions arranged between acad. counselors at school & the student.) Layer that with NO L.D. department or specialist in a school -- NONE --; add to that a heavy expectation of academic performance. Compound that with a student of extreme independent drive, by temperament. If that's not enough, mix that in with the reality that discovery of a crisis often corresponds with *accelerated* classes, such as Honors & AP's. In many cases, opportunities for these Honors classes do not arrive until soph or even jr. yr. That does NOT provide enough time to (a) find a private specialist, (b) arrange for the testing, (c) obtain results, conference with the evaluator; (d) arrange for accommodation with teachers for testing (i.e., start making a history!), (e) complete a 2-yr history, (f) apply to CB for the special circumstances with registration, (g) take the standardized tests, (h) have the tests reported in time for college applications.

I'd like to thank all my repliers for a lively & helpful discussion. The input was not too far from my expectations; many of my suppositions were confirmed; others were clarified, & some new info surfaced. Thank you also to those who kindly PM'ed me. I continue to see that the segment probably most challenged is the segment represented by my D: the highly performing student of high intelligence who appears so mainstream but who manifests significant setbacks in timed settings due to clinically apparent reprocessing hurdles. The measurements & judgments about who should be entitled to accommodation continues to be flawed, i.m.o. Add to that economic disparities, & my D is even more marginalized. However, we know that life is not "fair" or equitable. The world & our individual communities are filled with people that refuse to be impaired by their impairments. My D tends to embrace challenge & risk, but hopefully she will do so in an informed way in college.


And another link

Persistence is Necessary in Getting Accommodations on SAT, by Patti Twigg

I have been asked to share our experiences in getting the accommodations my son needs in order to level the playing field when he takes the SAT this coming Spring.

A brief background: My son has had an IEP since he was in pre-school. He is currently coded with a learning disability of written expression. He is now in 11th grade. He has always needed “wait and think” time when responding to answers, which in middle school and high school translated into extended time, especially on tests and exams. The use of technology was also a part of his IEP, although in elementary school he resisted use of the computer. As he got older, he became less resistant, and in middle school and high school he used/uses the computer for essay questions on exams and BCR/ECRs for class. I have had him undergo private educational testing twice, and MCPS has also done educational testing.


National Center for Learning Disabilities Interviews Paula Kuebler

Paula Kuebler is Executive Director of the College Board's Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD).

NCLD: The College Board has provided accommodations for students with disabilities for many years. What would you say have been the two or three greatest successes the Board has had in meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities? What have been the greatest challenges?

Paula Kuebler: Actually, the College Board was providing accommodations on its tests for students with disabilities even before the laws were enacted at the Federal and state level to protect the rights of students with disabilities and to provide special educational opportunities for them. The numbers are so much greater now, and the needs increasingly varied, yet the Board, each year, continues to provide appropriate accommodations on all of its tests to students with disabilities. Last year, for example, there were more than 55,000 students accommodated according to each student's individual needs.

There have been numerous accomplishments along the way to keep up with the increasing numbers of students diagnosed with disabilities who seek accommodations on our tests. For example, the Board coordinates requests for accommodations across the three major assessments—SAT I and II, PSAT/NMSQT, and Advanced Placement (AP)—thus removing a large amount of labor and paperwork from the students/parents and schools. Also, the Board works directly with schools and districts to help facilitate their students' eligibility for accommodations on our tests—when schools' processes and documentation align with the Board's guidelines, and the schools verify this, the Board accepts this rather than requiring a completely separate process.

The challenges are many. Most daunting is the scope of our task—ensuring that we can fairly address each student's individual needs. Also, equity of access to accommodations on our tests is a challenge—trying to ensure that all students with disabilities who need accommodations will have access to our tests. And, finally, reserving our testing accommodations for students with disabilities, not others who simply might benefit from them.

From a private school discussion list:

Setting the Scene

I have two students who have been approved to use laptops for the new SAT. However we have been instructed to disabled word-processing features (no spell-check, grammar check, cut-paste, thesaurus, dictionary, etc...). I can figure out how to do it, but the students can turn it back on. Does anyone know of a way to lock it off so that the student can't access these features but I can turn them back on after the exam?

Whose Problem Is It?

Also, anyone running into this should put pressure on College Board to solve this problem. It is their test, it is their problem.

Hurting the kids who need help:

Previous commenter on the College Board speak my mind. It certainly feels, and may in fact even be true(!), that the College Board has, subtlety or profoundly, changed the accommodations process for students with special needs annually for the last 5 years. How much more difficult can they make this process for special needs kids and the schools that care about educating them fairly? I suspect we'll find out as the years progress.

A different approach would work better

It certainly seems like the College Board needs to make accommodations for our students. The New York Bar Exam recently starting allowing students to write their exams on their own personal laptops in the testing center. The students had to install a program called Securexam which only allowed them access to a word processor (no spell check, no file access, no right click, autosave every 60 seconds, and many other features disabled). There was no way to access other files or programs while the bar software was running. Their data is saved to a usb key and the key is handed in. It has worked really smoothly.

It may be something that needs our industry association's attention. A few schools requesting this of the College Board might not be the way to approach it. It certainly seems like the software is out there, the College Board just needs to contract it out.

In the mean time, a typewriter sounds great, even an electric typewriter may be helpful. The more basic ones don't allow copy/paste.

Clarifying the discussion

It seems that comments/pressure to CB would have two threads. One is technical, and people here are suggesting solutions. The other question has to be - why can't someone use a dictionary, spell-check, thesaurus etc? It seems to begin to echo to the calculator theme of a few years back.

Is the test a spelling bee or a writing exercise? In 2005 we have the means to allow normal people to use tools to let them spell most words correctly. Learning to effectively use a spell check before turning in an essay seems like a necessary skill for a modern professional.

To me, knowing how to spell words from memory is not essential, as long as you know where to get help...and you understand that if you are a poor speller you should always get help. I am not suggesting that people should not strive to learn to spell, but that success as a world-class memory speller should not affect your ranking as a writer.

On what basis did College Board decide to eliminate a common modern tool?

My 2 cents....

( I am also pretty sure that it would take CB another 10 years to approve this change...)

More at the next comment.


more from the school discussion list:

CB's stance is pathetic

The most disturbing part of the CB policy is that it tacitly reinforces an all-too-common belief that students with learning disabilities are somehow "cheating" when using accommodations to which they are legally entitled.

As the parent of an LD child with a writing disability, we have tilted against the "unfair advantage" argument for years. It's worse than nonsense; it is destructive, insulting, and harmful to the children who wrestle with disabilities 24x7x365 for their entire lives and not just the few hours they spend taking the SAT. It helps produce the sort of attitude my daughter experienced when, struggling mightily to keep up with the workload in an AP English class (she was the first LD student ever to take an AP class at her large public high school), her teacher accused her of having faked her disability (ever since the fourth grade, I guess) to get extended time on his tests.

It's just pathetic to have built a huge infrastructure to ensure that LD kids can get the accommodations they need and then pull the rug out from under them on one of the most stressful occasions in their scholastic careers.

College Board analysis

On what basis did College Board decide to eliminate a common modern tool?

My first thought when reading the original thread and now this one is what ability differential is CollegeBoard trying to address in letting some students use computer technologies for writing their essay component? My suspicion, based on their guidelines, is that they are addressing dysgraphia and similar disabilities and don't intend to provide students with those disabilities an advantage in other areas (e.g. spelling or composition organization). A quick check of their website College Board guidelinesyields the following:

Eligibility Guidelines for Computer Accommodations on College Board Tests There are three major disability categories for documenting the need of a computer accommodation for written language expression on College Board tests:
  1. Physical Disabilities >
  2. Dysgraphia (fine motor)
  3. Learning Disability (severe)
A student's request for computer accommodation on College Board tests, in any of these categories, is to be made following the below documentation guidelines. Note that under category C., not all Learning Disabilities have functional limitations that establish the computer as an appropriate accommodation.

However from their website student accomodations they state that they are responsible for providing the disability accommodations. If that is the case it would seem that at minimum they should provide a software recommendation if not the software itself to support those disabilities.

More here

The College Board is responsible for ensuring the appropriate accommodations on its tests if you are diagnosed with a disability. Because each student's need for accommodations is individual, accommodations among students cannot be compared. The laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities ensure that a determination is based on each student's individual needs. Accommodations are to 'level the playing field' so that students with disabilities have the same opportunities as students who do not have a disability to demonstrate on tests what they have learned and how they can use what they have learned.

My question to this list, then, is whether anyone has contacted CollegeBoard and asked them if they provide the software or recommend a particular software package which conforms to their guidelines?

It seems to me that students who are performing very well in school with accomodations are more likely to be denied those same accomodations as they approach the SATs.

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