Accommodations and Accessibility Research to Support Students With Disabilities
ACT is committed to helping all students achieve education and workplace success, including the more than 7 million students in the U.S. who have disabilities. We provide testing accommodations for students with disabilities, which are changes to test administration conditions that allow students to more accurately demonstrate their knowledge and skills. ACT is continuously evaluating the accommodations that we offer, as well as the processes by which students request and are approved for accommodations, with a focus on how we can better serve students with disabilities. We also monitor the validity and efficacy of the accommodations and the scores that result from test administrations that include accommodations. ACT strives to provide a fair and equitable assessment experience to every student. Below is a repository for research that ACT has done investigating the performance and experiences of students testing with accommodations, as well as other research focused on students with disabilities.
Examining the Relationship Between Social and Emotional Skills and ACT Composite Scores in Students With Disabilities (McVey, Daley, & Anguiano-Carrasco, 2023)
Key findings: There is a positive relationship between social and emotional skills and ACT composite scores among students with disabilities. Higher social and emotional skills are associated with higher ACT scores.
This study examined the relationships between five social and emotional (SE) skills and ACT composite scores. The SE skills of Sustaining Effort, Getting Along with Others, Maintaining Composure, Keeping and Open Mind, and Social connection all showed significant, positive relationships with ACT scores. Students in the lowest quartiles of each of these skills had the lowest average ACT composite scores while those in the highest quartiles of each of these skills had the highest average ACT composite scores.
Score Gains of Students With Disabilities Testing With Accommodations on the ACT (Moore & Schnieders, 2023)
Key findings: Accommodations helped students better demonstrate their knowledge and skills, but a substantial number of students retested without accommodations, raising questions of whether students are facing barriers to receiving the accommodations they need.
This study examined the performance and score gains of students who took the ACT test with or without accommodations. Most students showed consistent testing patterns from Test 1 to Test 2, testing twice with accommodations or testing twice without accommodations. Students were more likely to test with accommodations in a State and District Testing context than in a National Testing context. Students testing with accommodations tended to score lower than students testing without accommodations, but there were some differences by disability type. Average performance increased from Test 1 to Test 2 for all retest groups, but score gains were lowest for students who first tested with accommodations and retested without accommodations and highest for students who first tested without accommodations and retested with accommodations. In summary, this study found that accommodations were positively related to students’ performance on the ACT, but additional research is needed to further understand whether students have adequate access and support to ensure that they are receiving the accommodations they need to accurately demonstrate their true levels of academic achievement.
Students Who Take the ACT With Accommodations: An Examination of Performance, Demographics, and Contextual Factors (Moore & Schnieders, 2022)
Key findings: Students who took the ACT test with accommodations wanted to attend college at similar rates as their peers but may face barriers to success, including taking fewer core academic courses in high school, having lower ACT scores, and having lower high school grade point averages. There was a large amount of variability in student performance by disability type, underscoring the need for students to receive an education that is appropriate for their individual needs.
This study examined the performance, demographics, and contextual factors of students taking the ACT test with accommodations compared to students taking the ACT without accommodations. We found that students testing with accommodations were similar demographically to students testing without accommodations, but were somewhat more likely to be male, white, or from high- or low income families, and less likely to be female, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, or from middle-income families. Students testing with accommodations were less likely to take upper-level core academic courses in high school but wanted to attend college at similar rates as their peers who tested without accommodations. Students who tested with accommodations tended to score somewhat lower on the ACT, but there was a large amount of variation in average performance by disability type, and demographic characteristics accounted for a substantial amount of variance in scores. Students with intellectual or conduct disorders tended to have the lowest scores, while students with anxiety or depression tended to have the highest scores. Students with higher ACT scores tended to have higher high school GPAs. In general, correlations between ACT scores and high school grades were comparable for students who tested with and without accommodations, but again, there was variability by disability type.
Examining the Validity of ACT Composite Score and High School Grade Point Average for Predicting First-Year College GPA of Special-Tested Students (Huh & Huang, 2016)
Key findings: Using ACT scores and high school grades together to predict college grades was more accurate than using either scores or GPA alone.
This study was a replication of a study by Ziomek and Andrews (1996) that examined the predictive validity of using a student’s ACT Composite score and high school grade point average (HSGPA) jointly to predict the student’s first-year college GPA (FYGPA), for students who tested under standard conditions as well as students who tested with accommodations. In addition to the joint prediction model, the current study examined two other prediction models for comparison purposes: a model using HSGPA alone, and a model using ACT Composite scores alone. Results indicated that FYGPA predictions based on the joint model were more accurate than predictions based on either variable alone. Using only one of the predictors tended to result in bigger over-prediction of FYGPA for students who tested with accommodations.
Does ACT Test Prediction Accuracy Depend on Testing Accommodations Received in Grades 10 and 11? (Allen, 2016)
Key findings: Predictions of ACT scores based on ACT Plan scores were slightly less accurate when students tested with accommodations.
This technical brief examined the accuracy of ACT Plan scores predicting ACT scores for students testing with and without accommodations and found slightly lower prediction accuracy for students testing with accommodations.
ACT Performance for Students with Disabilities Who Tested With Accommodations in 2014 (Ndum, Radunzel, & Westrick, 2016)
Key findings: Students who tested with accommodations earned lower ACT scores than students testing without accommodations, but average scores varied substantially by disability type.
This Data Bytepresented average ACT scores for students with disabilities who tested with accommodations during the 2013-2014 academic school year, compared to the population of all ACT-tested high school graduates of 2014, by disability type. Overall, students who tested with accommodations earned lower ACT scores than students testing without accommodations, but average scores varied substantially by disability type.
Grade 8 to 12 Academic Growth Patterns for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities (Bassiri & Allen, 2012)
Key findings: ELL students experienced less-than-expected growth in English and reading but above-average growth in mathematics, while students with disabilities experienced less-than-expected growth across subject areas.
This study used the longitudinal data of 2011 high school graduates who took EXPLORE, PLAN, and the ACT in grades 8, 10, and 11/12, respectively, to examine growth differences for ELL students and students with disabilities. ELL students experienced less-than-expected growth in English and reading, but above-average growth in mathematics. Students with disabilities experienced less than-expected growth in all four subject areas. Most of the growth differences, while statistically significant, were small in magnitude.
ACT Assessment Score Gains of Special-Tested Students Who Tested at Least Twice (Ziomek & Andrews, 1998)
Key findings: Students who tested twice with accommodations showed similar score gains as students who tested twice without accommodations, students who first tested without accommodations and retested with accommodations showed the highest score gains, and students who first tested with accommodations and retested without accommodations tended to have score declines of around half-a-point.
This study’s goal was to investigate the scores of students with disabilities who took the ACT Assessment at least twice, and at least once under extended-time guidelines. This investigation identified three distinct groups of students. The first group was composed of students who tested at least twice under extended-time guidelines. The second group of students initially tested under standard-time limits and then retested under extended-time guidelines. The third group of students initially tested under extended-time guidelines and retested under standard-time limits. Of the three groups of students, the second group had the largest average ACT Composite score gain of 3.2 scale score points. The third group of students had an average ACT Composite score decline of 0.6 scale score points. The first group had an average ACT Composite score gain of 0.9 scale score points, which is similar to that of students who tested twice under standard-time limits.
Predicting the College Grade Point Averages of Special-Tested Students From Their ACT Assessment Scores and High School Grades (Ziomek & Andrews, 1996)
Key findings: This study found slight over-prediction of college GPA based on ACT scores and self-reported high school GPA for students who took the ACT with accommodations.
This study provides information regarding the validity of ACT’s regression model, incorporating high school course grades and ACT test scores, for predicting the first-year college GPAs of students who took the ACT test with accommodations through the Special Testing Program. The sample of students who tested with accommodations used in this study was pooled across all postsecondary institutions participating in ACT’s prediction research service over a three-year period. Students who tested with accommodations were analyzed by diagnosed disability, test materials, and extended time guideline separately and in combinations of test materials and extended time guideline within diagnosis. The results revealed that the first-year college GPAs of students who tested with accommodations were slightly over-predicted. The correlations between predicted and actual GPAs varied by combinations analyzed, and were largest for students diagnosed with ADHD.