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School testing accommodations: What is new in 2016?

School districts policies frequently cause headaches for families raising children with learning disabilities. These include having to repeatedly provide documentation related to a disability and pay for costly testing services.  

Recent regulations should change this. The new US Department of Justice regulations clarify and update requirements related to testing accommodations. 

They also underscore that academically successful students may still qualify for testing accommodations under the ADA if they have a disability. This means that students do not need fail before receiving an accommodation. It may require challenging an IEP to get the accommodation implemented when a student is successful however.

What is covered?

Some of the examples provided by the DOJ, include high school equivalency exams and high school admission exams. They also include college entrance exams and exams for professional and graduate programs.

The updated regulations require that documentation to support an accommodation request be reasonable and limited. The recommendation of a qualified professional or an educator who observed difficulties will often be enough.

Continuity in accommodations

Students who have previously qualified for testing accommodations through an IEP should continue to receive them on subsequent tests, including any high-stake tests and standardized exams.

For example, an IEP might allow a middle school student attending a Bay area school additional time and a quiet room. It should generally continue as the student enters high school in Santa Cruz after moving with parents. Of course, it is dependent on whether the student certifies he or she still needs the accommodation.

A school needs to offer an accommodation in a timely manner. A student should not need to wait weeks to take an exam. In addition, a school cannot single out or flag a student who needs a testing accommodation.

It can take years for school administrators to update policies to reflect new regulations. Bringing up a concern to a teacher or school is sometimes the only way to drive change. 

Source: Dyslexic Advantage, Dyslexia and Accomodations – New ADA Guidelines 2016 for School and Work, Fernette Eide, Jan. 18, 2016

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