Administrative Advisory SPED 2004-3: College Testing Information
Special Education Administrators, Charter School Leaders, and Other Interested Parties
Marcia Mittnacht, State Director of Special Education
January 28, 2004
The purpose of this advisory is to respond to questions the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has received from school districts about their obligations to provide supporting documentation to the College Board when a student has requested accommodations on College Board tests (e.g., PSAT/NMSQT, SAT or AP). The College Board has recently changed its eligibility requirements for testing accommodations. Districts and parents are reporting that the College Board is rejecting many requests for accommodation because the documentation supporting the request is not sufficient under the its new eligibility standards. As a result, parents and students are asking districts to conduct additional evaluations or eligibility assessments to support students' requests for accommodation.
School districts typically have provided the College Board with documentation supporting the student's request for accommodation when the school district has such documentation on file, consistent with the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations. See 603 CMR 23.00. The Department expects that districts will continue to assist students who apply for accommodations on College Board tests. This advisory is intended to address only the recent changes to the College Board's requirements. The Department has consulted with other state education agencies and with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights.
Background: The College Board's eligibility requirements for testing accommodations are posted at Services for Students with Disabilities webpage, and find out how to apply for accommodations on College Board tests are available at Request Accommodations on College Board Exams webpage.
Parents and school districts report that the College Board is rejecting requests for accommodation on College Board testing for students with disabilities, even when the school district submits documentation that supports a finding of disability and shows a history of the district accommodating the student. In some cases, the College Board is asking that the student provide documentation of specific additional assessments or updated assessment information that the district does not need in order to deliver appropriate special education services to the student.
- Are school districts required to update assessments or provide additional assessments as requested by the College Board or by the parent in order to support the request of a student with a disability for accommodation on College Board examinations?
School districts are not obligated to provide or pay for updated or additional assessments to support a student's request for accommodation on College Board examinations if such assessment information does not already exist and is not necessary for the appropriate special educational program for the student at the time of the request. The parent (or adult student) is responsible for paying for additional assessments that are needed for the sole purpose of supporting the student's request for accommodation on the College Board examinations.
If the parent requests an evaluation or assessment, whether or not the request describes the reason for the request, the school district must respond in accordance with the requirements of state and federal special education law. The district may either agree to conduct such an assessment or may provide notice to the parent that it will not do so, using notice form N2. The district's decision not to conduct the assessment is subject to the due process requirements of the law.
- Are school districts required to evaluate a student for eligibility for special education if the student wishes to demonstrate such eligibility for the purpose of requesting accommodations on College Board examinations?
If a request for an evaluation is made for the purpose of demonstrating a need for accommodations on College Board tests, and the school district has no reason to believe the student has a disability or needs special education services, then the district can deny the request for an eligibility evaluation. The district must notify the parent or student of its denial using notice form N2. The district's decision not to conduct the evaluation is subject to the due process requirements of state and federal law.
Although there is no legal precedent in Massachusetts addressing this issue, a recent administrative decision in Maryland suggests that the district may refuse to conduct an assessment where eligibility is sought only to support the student's request for accommodation on the College Board exams. (See 40 IDELR 24, September 23, 2003.) In that case, the administrative law judge upheld the district's determination that a student did not have an impairment that substantially limited his learning, and therefore the student was not entitled to have the school conduct an assessment to support his request for accommodation on College Board examinations. Additionally, the administrative law judge noted that no legal precedent establishes that "test taking" is a substantial life activity that must be accommodated (as is required for an appeal under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act).
We hope this information is helpful. Questions regarding this advisory may be addressed to Program Quality Assurance Services at 781-338-3700. Additional information on preparing students with disabilities for postsecondary education transitions has been prepared by the U.S.D.O.E. and is available at: Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education webpage.