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. 

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