The Justice Department Sets New Rules for Rights to Testing Accommodations

Kids with learning and thinking differences who need accommodations in school may also need them when it comes time to take entry tests for college and graduate, professional and trade schools.

Under the , they have the right to accommodations like extra time on tests or quiet rooms. But in reality, students have often had trouble getting what they need.

“We’ve been seeing a growing dissatisfaction with the SAT, ACT and PSAT,” says Lindsay Jones, director of public policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, a founding partner of Understood. “It’s an intense process to have to apply for and qualify for those accommodations. It’s challenging.”

That’s why on September 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a set of rules to clarify how to manage issues that come up. The rules also contain new and updated requirements around what documentation can be used to determine if a student qualifies for accommodations.

This has been one of the major trouble spots for students and parents—getting accommodations approved without having to provide additional information.

They also address another common trouble spot: Being approved in time for the accommodations to be used. The DOJ says that testing services need to give students answers to their requests for accommodations more promptly.

Some other important highlights of the new rules include:

  • Students don’t have to repeatedly apply to keep accommodations. Proof of past accommodations is “generally” enough to keep them in place.
  • Students who receive testing accommodations under an or a should “generally” have the same accommodations for standardized exams or high-stakes tests.
  • Students can’t be denied accommodations just because they’re doing well academically. And the way a student’s test scores are reported can’t indicate that the student used accommodations or flag that he has a disability.

Experts see a real need for this guidance, known as “technical assistance.” Jones explains that this type of guidance is provided “when [the DOJ] has received an inordinate number of questions indicating there is a lack of clarity about an issue,” says Jones. “It is meant to give a really concrete, usable way to make decisions.”

If your child is planning on taking the ACT or SAT, learn about how to apply for testing accommodations.

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About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.