College Board has Changed the Process for Test Accommodations
Jason McCormick and Kelley Challen from NESCA explain what this means for you!
We applaud the College Board’s recent decision to leave the determination of the need for extended time, frequent breaks, and other necessary test accommodations up to the discretion of the student’s school. (see article) In most cases, school personnel will be using the results of psychological or neuropsychological evaluations as part of this decision making process. Although a comprehensive evaluation is no longer strictly a requirement for the determination of extended time on standardized testing, a neuropsychological assessment remains an extremely useful tool at this juncture in a student’s academic career.
Students applying for academic accommodations for standardized assessments such as the SAT or ACT presumably present with a specific learning disability, attention disorder, autism spectrum disorder, or emotional vulnerability. Students within this pool are at increased risk for struggles in college due to the combination of increased expectations and decreased support and structure. Unlike during their high school years, college students are expected to simultaneously manage the social demands of dorm life and academic self advocacy, the executive function demands needed to keep up with longer-term assignments and higher-stakes exams, and the independence skills needed to manage daily living responsibilities, including moderation of screen-based activities, medical self-care, maintenance of health lifestyle habits (e.g., sleep and exercise), and the ability to productively use larger swaths of “free” time. Meanwhile, these students are navigating all of these new demands without the safety net to which they became accustomed during and prior to high school. With this backdrop, the rate of students with disabilities graduating from college within an eight-year timeframe is at a concerning 34.2 %.
A comprehensive transition-focused neuropsychological evaluation and/or transition assessment is instrumental in helping students chip away at and/or circumnavigate barriers to success in college. Drilling deeper than their diagnosis, a comprehensive assessment helps provide a student with a strong understanding of their specific areas of strength and challenge, better equipping them to effectively self advocate, to anticipate and take steps to work around obstacles they will face in college. Neuropsychological assessment and transition assessment are also instrumental in identifying key areas to work on during a student’s remaining high school years, whether those are specific academic skills, daily living skills, executive function skills, social thinking, or emotional coping skills. Further, the information gathered through these types of assessments can help determine college readiness, and in situations when students do need some additional time to prepare for college, plans are generated to assist with transition readiness. Also garnered through this process are recommendations specifically tailored to college success, including advice around coordinating a workable class schedule, meeting with college support services, and securing accommodations, considering both academic and residence hall environments.
Thus, while families sometimes seek neuropsychological assessment primarily for the purpose of securing testing accommodations, those accommodations represent just a small part of an assessment’s utility in helping a student meet success in college.
Jason McCormick, PSY.D. Pediatric Neuropsychologist at NESCA