Is Independent School Right for Your Child?
Although independent schools are not required (and receive no governmental funding) to accommodate and provide related services to students with specialized educational needs, many excellent independent schools both routinely and enthusiastically enroll children who require these types of accommodations. When considering your child’s education, do not count out private schools, anticipating they will be uncooperative or dismissive of your child’s needs.
Not all students with an identified disability or disabilities require high levels of intervention in the academic setting, and in fact, many students are able to persevere and experience successin spite of the learning obstacles presented by their disability or disabilities.
Parents should always remember that they are their student’s #1 advocates, replaced in this role only by their student as they begin to learn and understand their own exceptionalities and educational needs. Parents should not feel as though an independent school education is something they cannot pursue for their child simply because of a disability.
Standardized Testing: Its Importance and Value in Admission
The demands of the admission process for independent schooling can vary greatly from school to school, but it is safe to assume your student will need to sit for at least one form of standardized testing as part of any school’s application process. In recent years, standardized testing has come under scrutiny. With increased emphasis on the weight it carries when measuring student academic achievement and in academic decision making, educators and parents alike have questioned the need and value of such high-stakes testing. While it is my professional opinion that no single test is suited to determine outcomes for students or drive institutional decision-making, standardized testing is widely regarded as the most reliable way to compare student ability and performance across a range of backgrounds and experiences, giving it particular value as part of any school’s admission process. In order to reliably compare one student’s test performance to other students of the same grade level and ensure none receives an unfair advantage or disadvantage, each tester must be administered the same test in the same way. This is the simple definition of a standardized test – it is given in a consistent manner to all testers.
The SSAT and Testing Accommodations
The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is a standardized assessment tool designed to reliably compare student academic and intellectual ability, and is required by many private schools as part of the application process. Though students who are significantly limited by an inherent disability or disabilities may not be able to take the SSAT in the traditional sense, any student with an identified disability may be eligible to receive testing accommodations when taking the SSAT to “level the playing field” and provide them with equitable access to the test.
No student should feel as though he or she cannot take the SSAT due to a disabling condition or impairment. In addition, when a student has registered for and taken the SSAT with testing accommodations, the score reports provided to schools do not indicate that the student utilized testing accommodations. This protects students with disabilities against discriminatory practices as they seek admission to private schools.
It is important to distinguish between testing accommodations and testing modifications. Testing accommodations provide students with the resources they need to: a) take the test; and b) perform at a level reflective of their true academic and intellectual abilities. Testing accommodations refer to “how” the test is administered. Conversely, testing modifications are fundamental alterations to the test which may reduce learning expectations or change the content found within the test. Testing modifications may change “what” the test is intended to measure or assess. Testing modifications are not permitted in standardized testing, as the provision of such modifications would not allow a student’s test results/scores to be reliably or validly compared to the performance of other test takers.
Types of Typical SSAT Accommodations
Specific testing provisions fall into four separate types: test presentation accommodations, test item response accommodations, test setting accommodations, and test timing or scheduling accommodations. The testing accommodations most commonly provided to students taking the SSAT include:
• 50% additional time (1.5X time)
• Testing in a small group setting
• The ability to answer test items directly in the test book
• Use of a laptop for the writing sample
• Use of a four-function calculator for the quantitative sections
• Use of a human reader to read all text aloud for the test taker
• Use of a scribe to write the writing sample and to mark a test taker’s answer choices
• Use of a ruler, highlighter, graph paper, and/or gel overlays
• Use of a large print test book
Though this list includes a variety of testing accommodations which may be necessary for any given test taker with a disability, SSATB understands that each student with a disability has a unique set of testing needs and all requested testing accommodations are given consideration throughout the application and approval processes.
How Can Students Receive SSAT Testing Accommodations?
In advance of testing, students with disabilities are required to apply for any testing accommodations deemed necessary and reasonable by the educational or medical professionals who are knowledgeable about the student’s educational testing needs. SSATB approval is required prior to test registration, so parents and students should plan to request accommodations as early as possible in the testing season. If SSATB has not approved accommodations prior to test day, they are not provided during test administration. Approval must be secured only once in any given testing year. The entire process is managed online through the student account on ssat.org, and our customer service team is available to discuss specific questions and requirements. For further information regarding the application and approval processes for testing accommodations, please review the Testing Accommodation Guide for Students. If you have questions related to testing accommodations and the SSAT, please do not hesitate to email SSATB