Thursday, July 29, 2021

ACT Exam to Use IEP/504 Accommodations

 Last week, the ACT Exam announced a change to how they would offer accommodations to students with learning, attention, and other disabilities. They now align with the College Board, which administers the SAT, AP, and other exams, and which implemented changes at the beginning of 2017. The College Board uses a "two question" inquiry for students seeking disability accommodations: 1) does the student's IEP or 504 Plan contain the accommodation they are seeking and 2) has the student used the requested accommodation for school exams?

 As the ACT noted in a press release, "Beginning with the 2021-22 testing year, students who already receive accommodations at their school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act will automatically be eligible to receive the allowable testing accommodations when they register for the ACT with accommodations."

This means that students no longer need to go through a separate process of providing evidence of their need for accommodations, such as extended time, to the ACT. If a student's school has approved accommodations as part of an IEP or 504 Plan, the ACT will simply require that for "examinees who have a valid, current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan (504 Plan) a copy of the IEP or 504 Plan will be sufficient to demonstrate eligibility and need for the same allowable accommodations on the ACT test." 

Note that the ACT still will exercise some oversight into which accommodations they will allow; they discuss certain Guiding Principles, which require that any accommodation should be reasonable and not fundamentally alter what the test is designed to measure. 

This is a welcome change, but it raises some questions. Among these are:

  • What about students who don't have an IEP or 504 Plan?

The ACT still will consider the needs of such students for accommodations. The "shortcut" they have announced doesn't change that and they will continue to apply the "reasonable accommodation" standard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that they have always used. 

  • What about students who  have "informal" accommodations?
If students are enrolled in a public school, we urge them to formalize their accommodations via a 504 Plan or even an IEP, if appropriate. For most private schools, a 504 Plan is not an option, but private schools should consider creating a more formalized plan memorializing accommodations they provide. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Getting Ready for the New School Year - A Webinar

Last week, Dr. Paul Yellin and Susan Yellin, Esq. presented a webinar for ADDitude Magazine on “9 Ways to Prime Your Child for a Positive School Year." The discussion, with slides and a Q&A session at the end, focused on using the remainder of the summer to prepare for a return to what for most students will be in-person learning this fall. More than 700 attendees watched live and over 6,000 more  signed up to watch it later

The Yellins' recommendations included both steps that parents should take and those that were more focused on student readiness - all keeping in mind that it's been a rough year and a half and that students and their families need a chance to engage in summer activities that are enjoyable and that build social as well as educational skills.

Parents were reminded that this summer would be a good time to review their child's IEP or 504 Plan, and seek to make changes to it, if needed, before school begins in the fall. For children who are taking ADHD medication, Dr. Yellin discussed the importance of working with your child's doctor to monitor the effectiveness and side effects, if any, of medication and to keep a "medication diary" to share with your child's prescribing physician. Dr. Yellin spoke about the importance of frontloading and having a "growth mindset'" as discussed by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset.

Both speakers mentioned a number of tools, apps, and websites that could build skills that may be needed to begin the next school year primed for success. These included those that were free and fun, like Bedtime Math to others that are more focused in their approach, such as IXL 

You can access this presentation as a video replay, listen to the podcast episode (#363), and download the slide presentation, with numerous slides and suggestions, from ADDitude, all at no charge.