The ACT recently rolled out a new system to streamline the accommodation application process. The system, called Test Accessibility and Accommodations System (or TAA), will allow families to complete the entire accommodations process online. Previously, families had to collect paper documentation from teachers, schools, and medical providers and submit the application via snail mail. Students requesting accommodations for the September test will do so via the TAA system.
Students will now be prompted to click whether they would like to apply for accommodations directly on the registration page. Soon after you indicate you’d like to apply, the ACT will send an email with specific instructions for how to forward the email to school officials (likely the special education coordinator or other professional). Then, the school will submit all required documentation on your behalf. The school will notify you with the ACT’s final decision about your accommodations.
Besides the obvious changes associated with moving from paper to digital, the new system directs the groundwork away from families and towards school officials. Students cannot apply for accommodations without the assistance of their schools. It is now more important than ever to make sure that the disability for which a student requests accommodations is officially documented through the school. I often see students with diagnosed learning disabilities who “unofficially” get extended time or accommodations from school staff based on informal conversations between teachers, parents and medical professionals. Now, a student must have an official IEP or 504 on file.
The ACT has made it clear that the introduction of this new application system will have no bearing on the number of students who get approved to test with accommodations. However, I would suspect that the proportion of students approved might actually increase now that students and families are no longer in control of what documentation is provided. Previously, students without a school-documented disability have been approved via a combination of persuasive letters from doctors, psychologists and teachers. This will no longer be possible.