The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Editorial: learning accommodations


A student takes their first Advanced Placement United States History test. While their classmates are switching to the next page, they are still on the first question, anxiously re-reading the first paragraph. The student believed that they were going at a good pace, but ended up having to rush through the rest of the test and getting a grade they weren’t happy with. In response, they quickly contacted their guidance counselor to find a solution. Their guidance counselors helped map out in-school testing accommodations, which was a long process. When it was time to take the SAT and AP exams, the student had to reapply for accommodations which further complicated the situation. In September, a request was sent to the College Board and in February, there still had been no response.

Many students experience similar struggles in obtaining an individualized education plan (IEP); it must first be determined if they are eligible through “careful and thorough testing,” according to the Massachusetts Department of Education. Then, an IEP will be developed with the input of parents, the student, general educators and special educators.

In order to obtain an established accommodation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, also known as a 504, according to the United States Department of Education, a student must be evaluated and a committee made of people “knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options” will decide if there is sufficient information to determine if the student has a disability.

IEPs are available to students with disabilities that adversely affect their school performance. Students with good grades tend to be ineligible for IEPs, regardless of their ability. IEPs establish plans for individualized special education predominantly outside of a mainstream classroom and must be renewed every year. 504s are for students that do not require special education services. For many students, IEPs or 504s are essential, especially when it comes to standardized testing.

College Board policy has been a persistent issue for those who require accommodations. The College Board website is difficult to navigate, and information about extra time and accommodations is hard to find. Furthermore, high school accommodations are non-transferable between schools and the College Board, meaning students have to reapply. This can be a hassle, as the College Board suggests that it takes around seven weeks for an accommodation to be approved.

The rigorous process of obtaining an IEP is an important part of making sure that all IEPs are individualized. However, the time and resources required to conduct this thorough evaluation results in long stretches of time between when students apply and when they are able to access their accommodation. Receiving an evaluation and diagnosis by a medical professional, a prerequisite for an IEP or 504, reinforces socioeconomic disparities among those who can access accommodations. It is important to note that a student’s grades may not accurately represent their need for an IEP or 504, no matter how high or low those grades are.

There is no easy fix to the flaws within the IEP and 504 evaluation process. However, certain changes can be made to better represent students and their needs. One potential change is designing tests to take less than the entire class period. t. Some good examples of where this has already been implemented include assessments in classes like Investigative Biology I and School Within a School. On an individual level, teachers can take the time to hear out their students’ needs and provide accommodations, regardless of a student’s learning plan or lack thereof.

One in five students in Massachusetts are eligible for a learning accommodation, and these are not indicative of someone’s intelligence or ability. Rather, they prove that flexibility within the school system is required for all students to have an equal opportunity to succeed.

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