Tests, tests, tests…it may seem like the school is always assessing your child for something or other! There are many uses for school tests and assessments, and many different types. Transition assessments for students with disabilities are a little different. Unlike other tests that can help monitor your child’s progress or where they need more support, transition assessments focus on what they see themselves doing after high school and how ready they are to hold a job. Here, we’ll tell you about different kinds of tests, and how students with disabilities can get support when they take them.
Testing accommodations for students with disabilities
For all of these kinds of tests, a child with an IEP or a 504 plan can get accommodations, or changes in the testing environment, to help remove barriers related to their disability. Here are some examples:
- Taking the test in a quiet room to reduce distractions
- Extra time for completing the test
- Breaks during the test
- Use of tools like graphic organizers or calculators
- An aide to read out the questions or write out the answers
- Assistive technology like voice-to-text, or special keyboards
The accommodations must be written into your child’s plan and arranged ahead of time. Your IEP team can make sure your child is getting the accommodations they need. (It’s different for college entrance tests like the SAT and ACT.)
Tips for getting testing support:
- Make sure your child’s IEP includes effective supports for test-taking. If your child decides to take more advanced classes and needs more support, ask for a meeting with their IEP team to adjust the goals and services
- Look at the specific testing accommodations for students with disabilities and decide with the team which ones would help your child
- Keep in touch with teachers and your child. Make sure they are getting the testing accommodations
Assessments your child may take in high school:
- Tests for passing a course
- State performance assessments
- Standardized college entrance exams (SAT and ACT)
- Transition assessments
Each kind has its own considerations and process for getting accommodations.
1. Tests for passing a course
Each class has its own tests and other types of assessment, like reports and projects, that contribute to the student’s grade and ultimately decide if they pass the course.
If your child’s disability makes it hard for them to take a traditional written test, talk to the teacher about alternative ways to show their learning. For example, say you have a child with dysgraphia–a neurological disorder that impairs their ability to put thoughts in writing. The teacher may allow them to take an oral test instead of a written one. (This may have a formal process in your state. For example, in Louisiana the April Dunn Act allows the IEP team to identify alternative forms of testing for high school classes that are required for graduation. But you should be able to include alternate testing formats in an IEP from any state.)
AP or Advanced Placement classes are more rigorous classes in specific subjects that students can take in high school. They follow a standardized, college-level curriculum and can allow students to claim them as a college credit if they pass the subject’s AP test at the end of the course. Students can also get accommodations to help them with AP tests. (See below in the SAT section.)
In Louisiana, the EOC’s, or End of Course assessments are the regular tests at the end of each course to show that a student knows the material. Students must pass a certain number of these to graduate. Louisiana is phasing these out in favor of LEAP 2025 assessments, the state’s standardized tests for school performance.
2. State performance assessments
These are academic achievement tests that everyone in public school must take in grades 3-8 and usually in grade 10. They test the student’s knowledge of core subjects like Math, English Language Arts, and Science to make sure they have the basic knowledge needed to graduate.
These assessments also test the school and the school district to make sure they are teaching effectively. Each state has its own name for these, and all students in the state take the same test.
- Louisiana: LEAP 2025, The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program
- Massachusetts: MCAS, The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System
Some states also require students to take a college entrance test or pass an exit exam in order to graduate from high school. (See which states require which tests.)
For students with significant intellectual disabilities, there should be an alternate assessment they can do, which is different from the standardized tests. It does not affect their progress through school but can hold the school district accountable for ensuring they are being educated.
LEAP 2025 Assessments: The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) is the term for the statewide performance assessments. These are tests given every year to all Louisiana students in grades 3-12. They can tell how well a student is meeting the expectations for their grade level, and identify when they need extra support. There are tests for a variety of subjects.
LEAP Connect or Alternate Assessments: The state performance tests for students with more significant challenges. Read more about support for students with significant intellectual disabilities.
See these short fact sheets about LEAP 2025:
- Parent Guide to the LEAP Tests
- Parent Guide to LEAP Practice Tests
- Parent Guide to LEAP 2025 Student Reports
- High School Assessments Fact Sheet
- Parent Guide to the LEAP Connect Assessments
- Parent Guide to the LEAP Connect Student Reports
- Practice Test Library
3. Standardized college entrance exams (SAT and ACT) and AP tests
These are tests students take in their junior or senior year of high school. Standardized means they are the same for all students all over the country.
- SAT – Formerly Scholastic Aptitude or Assessment Test, but now it’s its own word!
- ACT — American College Testing
Students also take the PSAT (Practice SAT) in their sophomore or junior year. This can give you an idea if your child needs more practice, accommodations, or other support for these tests.
Students must send the SAT or ACT scores to colleges they’re applying to, if the college requires them. They can often choose to take either one. Some colleges accept one or the other or both, and some don’t require either.
Before you register for the SAT, ACT or AP exam:
- Talk to your IEP team about choosing the SAT or ACT. The two tests use slightly different approaches. One might be a better fit with your child’s learning style
- Find out about practice tests. It may help your child to start trying these earlier than usual
- Arrange for your child to get the accommodations they need for any of these tests. You have to fill out the paperwork with SAT or ACT ahead of time
How to request accommodations for ACT, SAT, PSAT, and AP Exams:
Even if your child has accommodations at school from their IEP or 504 Plan, they have to apply separately to get them on these standardized tests.
Here’s what you can do:
- Find out the test dates and deadlines at the beginning of the year. You must make your request a few months before the exam, if possible! It can take up to 7 weeks to process
- Gather the documentation to prove your child’s disability: medical reports, diagnoses, school evaluation results, etc.
- Make the request yourself or ask your child’s IEP team to do it. The different testing organizations do it differently. See the process for each below
- Before the test day, make sure the accommodations will be in place – it won’t happen automatically. Check with your IEP team the week before the test
SAT, PSAT, and AP Exams:
- About the SAT: Dates & deadlines, registration, practice tests
- AP Courses
- Accommodations for the SAT
This is a separate testing organization. Parents can make the request for accommodations.
- About the ACT: Dates, registration, and prep
- Register online here: ACT: Requesting Accommodations
- List of accommodations for the ACT
4. Transition Assessments
There are also assessments to help your child explore their future goals and see what kind of extra training they may need.
These may be surveys to learn about their career interests, job readiness skills, and strengths in different areas. They can help identify your child’s needs for support and help create a good Transition Plan.
There are many different kinds of transition assessments, and it’s often helpful to do a few different ones. The IEP or Transition team can work with you and your child to identify the right mix of assessments, and what accommodations your child needs.
- Aptitude tests and measurements of specific abilities in a certain skill area
- Psychological testing and intelligence tests to assess cognitive function (Be careful of “intelligence” or “IQ” tests. They usually only test for traditional types of intelligence, while there are actually many different types.)
- Adaptive behavior and independent living skills evaluations
- Career interest inventories
- Job readiness assessments
- “Situational Vocational Assessments” (they take the student around to see different jobs in action–a great way to see what your child really might want to do!)
- Teacher/parent observation
Examples of transition assessments:
Some of these are written for parents or school staff, but fill them out with your child if possible. You can also just look at the questions to get an idea of what kinds of traits they may evaluate for transition planning.
- Career Aptitude Test
- Personality Test
- Parent Questionnaire for Transition Planning
- Parents – Transition Skills Checklist
- Youth Life Skills Assessment
- Study Skills Inventory
See this guide for more information and resources for transition planning:
WorkKeys is a set of assessment tests from ACT for students who are studying technical skills for specific jobs. (For example, the Jump Start program in Louisiana.) It is aligned with the National Career Readiness Certificate.
WorkKeys assesses both general and specific workplace skills that are the foundations of being a successful employee.
All of these assessments will be a big part of your child’s high school experience. As a parent, you can support your child by helping them get the accommodations they need, helping them know how to prepare, and understanding the process and the reports yourself. Stay involved and keep asking questions!
- Transition to Adulthood resources
- Age-Appropriate Transition Assessments and Resources (here is a pdf version)
- Transition Information for Parents and Students with IEPs: Brochures from the Federation for Children with Special Needs. Available in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Portuguese, and Vietnamese. Written for Massachusetts but has useful information for families from any state