The ACT test determines a student’s college placement and funding opportunities. Because it is a reading test, students with language-based learning difficulties need extra preparation and accommodations to do well. It may be uncomfortable to be the one who finally points out that an older student is struggling with reading, but it has to be done. As educators, we can’t allow students to take important tests that decide their futures without preparing them.
The best preparation is having a game plan for how to take the ACT. I would recommend that schools start a conversation about the ACT in the student’s freshman year. The plan should include a timeline, test practice, and a look at appropriate accommodations. The ACT website offers an extensive list of accommodations, the most common of which is extra time.
Professional standards dictate that students with dyslexia should have been identified in elementary school and received appropriate reading instruction with complementary accommodations. Since we know there are many students who weren’t identified until middle school or high school, educators can help these students prepare for the ACT by recommending the student for further evaluation, then discussing the need for a 504 plan.
It’s never too late to provide appropriate support, particularly when ACT results dictate future educational placement and funding.
Although extended time is one of the most common accommodations, be sure it’s appropriate for your student. If your student is struggling to read with fluency and accuracy, extended time alone will not be helpful. You should consider having the questions read to the student. The testing accommodations you ask for should be in line with what has been helpful for your student in the past. This is why the 504 plan and IEP are important; they are blueprints for the accommodations your student will receive on the ACT.
Parents should do everything they can to make test day as stress-free as possible. Make sure your student has read the instructions and understands what to bring to the testing center and what to leave home. There’s nothing worse than arriving to the test center and realizing you’ve forgotten your ID or brought a backpack that must be left outside.
Excerpted from “Helping Students with Dyslexia Prepare for the ACT” in SmartBrief online. Read the full article for more information on how administrators, educators, and parents can help students with dyslexia get ready for the ACT.