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DVFS College Counselor Reflects on College Board Accommodations Request Process Announcement
From Hallie Ciarlone, DVFS Director of College Counseling
The College Board recently announced a more streamlined and updated request and review process for students seeking testing accommodations for their exams (PSAT, SAT, and AP exam). I was pleased to see an increased level of communication from College Board representatives after the 2015-2016 school year fiascos in which many counselors felt blindsided or ignored during unexpected major CB overhauls. In April, 2016, I had the privilege to travel to New York City to meet directly with senior level CB administrators as part of a hand-picked national group of counselors. This group of about a dozen counselors represented both public and independent schools from all corners of the country. While I was the only representative from a purely LD school, all counselors had LD populations at their schools. My two main takeaways from this meeting were that the College Board is actively trying to regain their market share by appealing to counselors who advise students and also that the LD population of test takers is growing, thereby necessitating more equitable and accessible testing policies. Since the meeting, our group has had several follow ups including directed calls in relation to LD specific policies to ensure the College Board communication was moving in the right direction.
The most recent policy change outlines a streamlined SSD accommodations request process. As of January 1, 2017, counselors will no longer need to fill out the cumbersome multiple page online list of diagnoses and testing details. The College Board is now instituting a policy that more closely aligns with school-allowed accommodations. For those schools that utilize IEP or 504 plans (i.e. mainly public schools), students’ CB accommodations will mimic those in the IEP/504 document. This does raise some concerns for me as my personal experience reading DVFS applicant IEP documents and dealing with my own step-daughter’s IEP has left me with memories of less than stellar goals and testing accommodations. However, I am hopeful that this will help increase basic access to the SAT/PSAT exams for those public school students for whom updated psychoeducational evaluations are too expensive or not covered by their schools. (see the College Board announcement here.)
For independent schools who do not not use IEP/504 plans (i.e. DVFS), the College Board has outlined the following process: “Most private school students with a current, formal school-based plan that meets College Board criteria will also have their current accommodations automatically approved for College Board exams. Under the new process, you’ll [counselors] need to answer only two questions when submitting most requests for students:
- Is the requested accommodation(s) in the student’s plan?
- Had the student used the accommodation(s) for school testing?”
I am very pleased to report that all DVFS students will be covered by this plan since DVFS has a comprehensive Learning Profile for each student. This living document changes as students and teachers grow together, thereby minimizing the chance of any denials of College Board requests. At DVFS we pride ourselves on truly knowing our students and creating the best testing plan for them.
Since the College Board announcement, I have already been contacted by both colleagues and CB administrators asking great follow up questions about how DVFS documents school accommodations and how DVFS administers the SAT and ACT exams to students who need extra time or other accommodations that require school-based testing. Some colleagues at non-LD schools are concerned that their learning support documentation will need to be updated, but I look at this as a good opportunity for their schools to grow and recognize the variety of learning styles within the schools. I am confident that the CB knows the strong DVFS legacy and is using our students as a model for advocacy and access to these exams. While I still recognize major flaws in all standardized examinations for LD and non-LD students, this is at least a step in the right direction of acknowledgment of the impact and potential of the LD population.
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