Tag Archives: IDA Fact sheet

Applying for Accommodations on College Entrance Tests

IDA FACT SHEET  (International Dyslexia Association)

The application process for individuals planning to enter college can be a daunting experience. For individuals with disabilities who are requesting testing accommodations, this can be even more challenging, as it often requires assembling necessary documentation, completing additional paperwork, and anticipating deadlines. This IDA Fact Sheet gives a broad overview of the process in order to assist individuals who are requesting test accommodations on high stakes tests such as the SAT and ACT. It provides guidance about what forms to submit, how to provide sufficient disability documentation, and how to gather supplemental information if needed to support accommodation requests. Keep in mind that each testing agency sets its own requirements for requesting accommodations.

The Application Process

  • Test takers should read the test information on the program’s website. Many tests are administered on computer and incorporate functions such as a built-in calculator, clock, etc. Additionally, most testing agencies provide supplemental information or a handbook for test takers with disabilities.
  • The testing agency website will give specific information about how to apply for accommodations. This should be read carefully to determine which accommodations are necessary (e.g., additional testing time, or breaks, separate room, a reader, etc.).
  • Special Services and/or counseling staff in the student’s high school or district may be able to assist in completing the application and acquiring the required documentation.
  • Early submission of applications is important, as it’s not unusual for testing agencies to request additional scores, updated testing, or clarification, which can cause delays. This is particularly true during peak application periods.
  • Once the agency receives an application for accommodations, it may be two months before the applicant is notified. If additional testing or an appeal is needed, all this must be accomplished and submitted at least 60 days in advance of the test date.
  • Since most testing agencies no longer “flag” scores obtained under non-standard conditions, it is important to request accommodations that are needed.


  • Typically, all documentation should be sent in one complete packet. This pertains to supporting documentation (IEP, transcripts, letters re: past accommodations).
  • Testing agencies often require current documentation according to their individual “recency” criteria. For example, many testing agencies request documentation for learning disabilities to be dated within the last three to five years to reflect the test taker’s need for specific accommodations. Test takers should review the documentation guidelines posted on the website.
  • Often, a current, comprehensive evaluation is needed, as an adult version of some tests may be required. For example, most testing agencies will not accept a handwritten prescription-pad note from a doctor. Documentation should be complete, dated, signed, in English, and on official letterhead. Disability documentation should address all of the following:
    • The existence of an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, as compared to most people in the general population
    • A diagnosis of the disability and the current impact of impairment and how it limits the student’s ability to take the test under standard conditions
    • A rationale for why the requested accommodations are necessary and appropriate. For example, if extra time is requested, the evaluation must say how much extended time should be provided and on what basis.
    • The accommodations that are requested should generally match those provided in the past.
  • Some accommodations may not require prior approval, such as braces or crutches, eyeglasses, insulin pump, etc. Lockers that can be accessed during breaks are typically provided for storage of food, water, and/or medication, if applicable.
  • If sufficient disability documentation is unavailable or outdated, it may take up to nine months in advance to find a qualified professional with a qualified professional with experience and expertise in diagnosing and documenting the disability in question. That evaluator will need relevant historical information, including:
    • Letters documenting a history of accommodations in school, such as IEPs or 504 plans, or proof of accommodations on statewide assessments.
    • A description of tutoring or coaching services provided in the past.
    • A comprehensive evaluation report for diagnosis of the disability and accommodation determination.
  • Additionally, school records from elementary and high school as well as teacher comments will help support a history of a disability. High school transcripts may provide good evidence if they showed the impact of the disability on grades (e.g., dropped classes, withdrawals, incompletes, or failing grades). It is not always the case that accommodations in the past will automatically continue. An ongoing need for accommodations can be described in a personal statement.
  • Many colleges and universities with strong school psychology programs perform evaluations at a reduced fee if a private evaluation is not feasible.

Types of Decision Letters

There are three basic types of decision letters that the testing agency sends:

  1. Approval—This type of letter will list the accommodations that have been approved.
    • Once accommodations have been approved, directions on the approval letter regarding how to schedule the test and other pertinent information.
    • Be aware that extra time may be needed to schedule the test after approval for accommodations. For example, extra time may be needed to secure a reader or scribe.
  2. Request for Additional Information—This type of letter is not a denial of the request. It specifies that the agency needs more information to complete the review.
  3. Denial—If the testing agency finds the documentation insufficient to support the accommodation request, this letter will explain the decision and will include options for requesting further review.
    • Appeal Process: Each testing agency has established a procedure to allow an appeal of its decision. The information on how to appeal a decision is typically stated in the denial letter or on the agency’s website. When the requested information is submitted, the request will be reconsidered.

Preparing for the Test

Whether or not an accommodation request is approved, it is important for the student to become familiar with the upcoming test.

  • Most testing agencies have a wide range of practice materials at no or low cost available to test takers.
  • Areas of particular focus are the test format, the types of questions used, and the test directions for each type of question. This can reduce the amount of time spent familiarizing oneself with instructions on the test day. Alternate-format practice materials can be requested if this is one of the desired accommodations.
  • The sample test questions can be practiced with and without the requested accommodations. The goal is to increase the number of questions correctly completed within the time limit. As you practice, try to increase the number of questions you can complete correctly within the time limit.
  • Test sites differ, so it is a good idea to check out the location in advance.


The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) thanks Loring Brinkerhoff, Ph.D., Nancy Cushen White, Ed.D., BCET, CALT-QI, and Diana Sauter, Ph.D., for their assistance in the preparation of this fact sheet.

© Copyright The International Dyslexia Association (IDA). For copyright information, please click here.  IDA site: https://dyslexiaida.org 

Reading / writing tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


+ Summer Vacation and Reading Development

By Joanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. and Fumiko Hoeft, M.D. Ph.D.

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Once the academic year comes to a close, students throughout the US begin a season many associate with relaxation, sunscreen, fireflies, and sprinklers. How students spend their summer vacation can differ widely, a contrast to their experiences during the school year with its focused schedules, curricula, and routines.

For willing readers, the summer offers an important opportunity to continue engaging with reading activities. For students with reading disabilities or difficulties, the summer months can offer a break from reading and its struggles. Students with developmental dyslexia—a disorder of reading acquisition and development impacting the ability to read words accurately and/or fluently—may be particularly disinclined to engage in reading activities. However, research shows that the summer months are a critical time for at-risk students to avoid the “summer slump”—the regression of ability levels.

The purpose of this article is to examine common misconceptions about summer break, identify potential concerns for our students, and highlight opportunities for readers and their families.

Why do US schools have summer vacation?

Many people believe that summer vacation originally was required so that children could support farming responsibilities in agricultural society. Kenneth Gold (2002) addresses this common myth about summer vacation with the following clarifications.

First, schooling held during the summer months was relatively common in the early to mid 1800s. In fact, school was more likely to be held during summer and winter months in rural areas to allow for planting and harvesting in the spring and fall seasons. Furthermore, school often was suspended during poor weather in the winter months when travel was difficult. These conditions made the rural school calendar inconsistent.

The school cycle we currently follow came about in an effort to make rural and urban school schedules consistent. Urban students attended school for what now would be considered an extended duration (240 or more days a year). Establishing a consistent school year with a summer vacation also accommodated the increasingly common practice of urban families taking vacations, offered relief to school budgets, and satisfied the idea that both teachers and students needed to recover from the stresses of school. Thus, a shortening of the urban school schedule and a lengthening of the rural school calendars led to the modern school calendar.

What is summer slump?

Following summer vacation, students often start the school year with less competence than they demonstrated the previous spring. This tendency to show skill regression sometimes is termed “summer slump,” “summer slide,” or “summer setback.”

One way that researchers have learned about summer slump is by observing the amount of growth on repeated assessments during two time periods, fall to spring (i.e., the school year) and spring to fall (i.e., the summer). There is less growth in the latter. On average, students lose the equivalent of one month during the summer in academic performance (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 1996). This estimate varies, however, depending on reading habits and grade levels, with increasing potential for summer slump as students progress through the grades and academic demands increase (Cooper, Nye, et al., 1996; Hill et al., 2007).

What risk factors contribute to summer slump?

The main risk factor for summer slump that has been researched is socioeconomic status (SES). SES indices draw on information about parental education level and current job status, with higher SES scores reflecting more education and higher paying jobs. These factors are used as direct indicators of the types of resources that may be available to children in the home environment (e.g., books in the home, enrichment activities) and indirect indicators of other factors that can affect reading habits (e.g., language spoken in the home, frequency of TV watching).

Research consistently highlights the risk for summer slump faced by children from low-SES homes relative to their mid-SES and higher-SES peers. On average, low-SES students tend to regress in reading skill, while mid-SES students maintain their placement, and high-SES students gain skills during this time (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007a; Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007b; Burkam, Ready, Lee, & LoGerfo, 2004; Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay & Greathouse, 1996; Heyns, 1987; McCoach, O’Connell, Reis, & Levitt, 2006; Mraz & Rasinski, 2007).

The implication of this widening gap is most evident when considering that while students across SES groups show largely consistent reading growth during the school year, cumulative gaps based on summer experiences can account for up to 80% of the achievement gap (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007).

To make this point more concretely, let’s consider that from September to June in grade 1, low-SES and high-SES students make the same gains on reading measures, but from June to September, low-SES students lose skills while their peers gain reading skills, depending on summer experiences. As a result, low-SES students will begin grade 2 behind their peers. Likewise, students gain the same amount of skills in grade 2, but low-SES children begin the following summer with the deficit accumulated during the previous summer.

Thus the difference in reading skills is amplified with each summer break. This research indicates that children with limited socioeconomic resources are at a disproportionately higher risk of summer slump relative to their higher-SES peers each summer and of accumulating skill deficits across summer seasons.

Low SES is one high-risk factor for summer regression. Are reading disabilities or difficulties also a risk factor for summer slump? Do struggling readers, too, lose reading skills during the summer? Although there is a paucity of research on this population, studies of related populations indicate increased risk for summer declines in reading among students eligible for special education (Shaw, 1982) or diagnosed with language impairments (Morgan, Farkas, & Wu, 2011).

In the first study to address reading development during the summer in struggling readers, Christodoulou et al. (2015) enrolled young children with reading disabilities or difficulties in early primary grades into a randomized control trial summer-reading intervention study, with half of the students assigned to an intensive reading intervention and half assigned to a waiting control group (i.e., the intervention was available to the control-group families after the 6-week study was completed).

Christodoulou et al. found that, on average, students who were not assigned to reading intervention showed significant reading skill decline based on standard scores, while those who participated in reading intervention did not make standard score gains, but maintained their reading skills. Thus, students in this study receiving intensive (100 hours) reading instruction showed positive gains from the intervention by avoiding summer slump, rather than by improving their skills. In contrast, the students who did not participate in the intervention showed a loss in reading skills.

This pattern is distinctive because it contrasts with typical intervention study outcomes that show no change in the control group and growth in the intervention group. The work of Christodoulou et al. offers insights for the community by exploring reading disability status as a factor that puts students at elevated risk of summer slump each year, and at risk of cumulative losses over time.

Avoiding summer slump is an important goal

Avoiding summer slump and fostering positive reading growth are important goals for all readers, and particularly for those at-risk due to SES or reading disability status.

Many schools, libraries, and community organizations offer summer literacy activities to promote development during this time. Current surveys report that 33% of families enroll children in a summer learning program (Afterschool Alliance, 2014). Research demonstrates the potential of summer reading programs to prevent or reduce summer slump in students with a variety of risk factors:

Reading or learning disabilities (Christodoulou et al., 2015; Cornelius & Semmel, 1982),
Low SES (Johnston, Riley, Ryan, & Kelly-Vance, 2014; Kim & Quinn, 2013), or
Low performance relative to a variety of literacy benchmarks (Zvoch & Stevens, 2011, 2013)
In fact, evidence shows positive gains for many summer programs, including those that are mandatory (for students who would otherwise be retained in the same grade) and voluntary programs that are home-based or school-based (McCombs, 2011).


The summer months are critical for overall reading development, and how children spend this time can have long-term impact on their academic outcomes. While we must consider what is best for each child individually, there is mounting evidence that some children are more likely to lose valuable skills they have established or lose opportunities to improve vulnerable skills during the summer.

Two characteristics that can put children at risk for summer slump are low socioeconomic status and having reading disabilities or difficulties. Summer slump can be avoided or reversed by participating in high quality summer learning experiences that can be delivered in academic or home settings.

The summer months offer a valuable opportunity for the community to support our struggling readers by helping students improve skillsets and by promoting an identity as a successful reader. Rather than extend the challenges that struggling readers face during the school year into the summer months, it would be critical to consider this period as one that enhances student ownership over literacy and identity as readers. We can also support struggling readers by fostering areas of interest; the motivation to learn about high-interest topics via printed text can help struggling readers overcome some barriers. This is one trait shared by successful adults with dyslexia (Fink, 1998).

Several characteristics of summer literacy programs optimize the quality and outcomes for students. These factors, as summarized by a RAND Corporation report (McCombs et al., 2011) on summer interventions, include the following:

  • Small class sizes (maximum size of 20 students) (Cooper et al., 2000)
  • Individualized instruction (Beckett, 2008; Boss & Railsback, 2002; Cooper et al., 2000)
  • High-quality instruction (Bell & Carrillo, 2007; Boss & Railsback, 2002; Denton, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009)
  • Curricula consistent with academic goals (Boss & Railsback, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009; Beckett, 2008)
  • Engaging and rigorous programming (Bell & Carrillo, 2007; Boss & Railsback, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009; Beckett, 2008)
  • Maximized participation and attendance (Borman, Benson, & Overman, 2005; Borman & Dowling, 2006; McCombs, Kirby, & Mariano, 2009)
  • Sufficient duration (McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009)
  • Involved parents (Cooper et al., 2000)
  • Evaluations of effectiveness (Bell & Carrillo, 2007; Boss & Railsback, 2002; Denton, 2002; McLaughlin & Pitcock, 2009; Beckett, 2008)

Recommendations for summer reading programs for school districts are available from several organizations. The RAND Corporation offers a guide with recommended practices for district leaders to start or modify summer programs (Augustine et al., 2013). The National Summer Learning Association (https://summerlearning.com) offers resources for families and communities, including activity calendars and offers of standards for how to develop and deliver effective summer programs.

More of Dr. Fumiko’s Science of Dyslexia
March 2014
New Scientific Evidence Sheds Light on the Phoneme Debate, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D.

July 2014
The Emerging Field of Neuroscience Is Changing the Landscape of Dyslexia Research and Practice, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D. Ph.D., UCSF and Chelsea Myers, BSC, UCSF

September 2014
Meet Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D., Q&A with Geschwind Memorial Lecturer

December 2014
Many Layers of Dyslexia: Gene Discovery Is Just the Beginning, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D. and Albert Galaburda, M.D.

March 2015
The Myths and Truths of Dyslexia in Different Writing Systems, by Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D., Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Kenneth Pugh, Ph.D.


Afterschool Alliance. (2014). America after 3pm and summer learning. Retrieved from http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/documents/Summer_Learning_Pager_2014.pdf

Alexander, K. L., Entwisle D. R., & Olson L. S. (2007a). Summer learning and its implications: Insights from the Beginning School Study. New Directions for Youth Development, 114, 11–32.

Alexander, K. L., Entwisle D. R., & Olson L. S. (2007b). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167–180.

Augustine, C. H., McCombs, J. S., Schwartz, H. L., Zakaras, L. (2013). Getting to work on summer learning: Recommended practices for success. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, RR-366-WF. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR366.html

Beckett, M. K. (2008). Current-generation youth programs: What works, what doesn’t, and at what cost? Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, OP-215-GJ. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP215.html

Bell, S. R., & Carrillo, N. (2007). Characteristics of effective summer learning programs in practice. New Directions for Youth Development, 114, 45–63.

Borman, G., Benson, J., & Overman, L. (2005). Families, schools, and summer learning. The Elementary School Journal, 106(2), 131–150.

Borman, G. D., & Dowling, N. M. (2006). Longitudinal achievement effects of multiyear summer school: Evidence from the Teach Baltimore randomized field trial. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(1), 25–48.

Boss, S., & Railsback, J. (2002). Summer school programs: A look at the research, implications for practice, and program sampler. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Burkam, D. T., Ready, D. D., Lee, V. E., & LoGerfo, L. F. (2004). Social-class differences in summer learning between kindergarten and first grade: Model specification and estimation. Sociology of Education, 77, 1–31.

Christodoulou, J.A., Cyr, A., Murtagh, J., Chang, P., Lin, J., Guarino, A.J., Hook, P., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (submitted, 2015). Impact of intensive summer reading intervention for early elementary school children with dyslexia.

Cooper, H., Charlton, K., Valentine, J. C., Muhlenbruck, L., & Borman, G. D. (2000). Making the most of summer school: A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 65(1), 1–127.

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227–268.

Cornelius, P. L., & Semmel, M. I. (1982). Effects of summer instruction on reading achievement regression of learning. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 15(7), 409–413.

Denton, D. R. (2002). Summer school: Unfulfilled promise. Atlanta, GA: Southern Regional Education Board.

Fink, R. (1998). Literacy development in successful men and women with dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 48, 311–346.

Gold, K. M. (2002). School’s in: The history of summer education in American public schools. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Heyns, B. (1987). Schooling and cognitive development: Is there a season for learning? Child Development, 55, 6–10.

Hill, C. J., Bloom, H. S., Black, A. R., & Lipsey, M. W. (2007). Empirical benchmarks for interpreting effect sizes in research. New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from http://www.mdrc.org/publication/empirical-benchmarks-interpreting-effect-sizes-research

Johnston, J., Riley, J., Ryan, C., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2014). Evaluation of a summer reading program to reduce summer setback. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 1–17.

Kim, J. S., & Quinn, D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on low-income children’s literacy achievement from kindergarten to grade 8: A meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 386–431.

McCoach, B. D., O’Connell, A. A., Reis, S. M., & Levitt, H. A. (2006). Growing readers: A hierarchical linear model of children’s reading growth during the first 2 years of school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 14–28.

McCombs, J. S., Pane, J. F., Augustine, C. H., Schwartz, H. L., Martorell, P., & Zakaras, L. (2014). Ready for fall? Near term effects of voluntary summer learning programs on low-income students learning opportunities and outcomes. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, RR-815-WF. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR815.html

McCombs, J. S., Augustine, C. H., Schwartz, H. L., Bodilly, S. J., McInnis, B., Lichter, D. S., & Cross, A. B. (2011). Making summer count: How summer programs can boost children’s learning. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, MG-1120-WF. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG1120.html

McLaughlin, B., & Pitcock, S. (2009). Building quality in summer learning programs: Approaches and recommendations. New York, NY: The Wallace Foundation.

Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., & Wu, Q. (2011). Kindergarten children’s growth trajectories in reading and mathematics: Who falls increasingly behind? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44(5), 472–488.

Mraz, M., & Rasinski, T. V. (2007). Summer reading loss. The Reading Teacher, 60(8), 784–789.

Shaw, V. T. (1982). Retention of selected reading and arithmetic skills by learning disabled pupils and non-disabled pupils over summer vacation. Unpublished master’s thesis, California State College, Stanislaus.

Zvoch, K., & Stevens, J. J. (2011). Summer school and summer learning: An examination of the short- and longer term changes in student literacy. Early Education and Development, 22(4), 649–675.

Zvoch, K., & Stevens, J. J. (2013). Summer school effects in a randomized field trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 24–32.

Fumiko Hoeft, MD Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, member of the Scientific Leadership Team for the Dyslexia Center, and Director of the UCSF Hoeft Laboratory for Educational Neurosciences (brainLENS.org) at the University of California-San Francisco. In addition, she is a Research Scientist at Haskins Laboratories and Scientific Advisor at the Center for Childhood Creativity. Dr. Hoeft’s current research program in collaboration with Yale, Vanderbilt, and other institutions in the UK, Finland, Spain, Taiwan and Israel, primarily focuses on using brain imaging and genetics to understand the mechanisms of brain development, and dyslexia—and educationally relevant concepts such as motivation, resilience, and stereotype threat. Recent honors include IDA’s Norman Geschwind Memorial Lectureship (2014) and the Transforming Education through Neuroscience Award from Learning and the Brain Foundation and International Mind Brain and Education Society (IMBES) (2015). She has published over 100 articles in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Journal of Neuroscience, and has delivered over 120 keynotes, lectures (including remarks at the White House, Dept of Ed, UNESCO, and IMBES). Her work has been covered in media such as The New York Times, NPR, CNN and The New Yorker.

Joanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA. Her research group, the Brain, Education, and Mind (BEAM) Team, merges clinical, cognitive neuroscience and education perspectives. Current topics that the BEAM Team investigates include summer reading development and effective interventions for struggling readers (http://bit.ly/BEAMteam_FB). Her research has been supported by organizations including the Fulbright Foundation, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Spencer Foundation, and Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative at Harvard University. She is also on faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and holds a Research Affiliate position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has taught reading in school settings to struggling readers, helped develop reading curricula and assessments, and led professional development sessions internationally for a range of audiences on topics related to educational neuroscience. She was the 2014 recipient of the Transforming Education through Neuroscience Award given by the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) and the Learning and the Brain Foundation. Her publications include a co-authored overview of reading research in the book Mind, Brain, and Education: Neuroscience Implications for the Classroom (2010) and a co-edited series in the Mind, Brain, and Education Journal (2009) titled “Usable knowledge in Mind, Brain, and Education.”

Source: International Dyslexia Association Fact Sheet

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