Dear Extra Credit:

Why is the Montgomery County public school system charging students for accommodations on the SAT I? My daughter received a letter dated March 12 from Walter Johnson High School, informing her that she was registered to take the SAT I with special accommodations Saturday, March 27, at Walter Johnson High School, that her special accommodations included a reader and that she would be charged $25 an hour to take the SAT I . . . with a reader. This is inconsistent with what the Educational Testing Service states on its Web site, which is that there are no additional charges for approved testing accommodations.

Kathleen Gilhooly

Parent,

Walter Johnson High School

Bethesda

Ever read the Charles Dickens novel "Bleak House"? It is a tortured journey into the hopelessly complex legal system of 19th-century England, and it often reminds me of the rules on special education and accommodations on tests for students with disabilities. Here, for instance, are excerpts from the two-page statement Montgomery County school officials sent me in response to your question:

"For those students who have been granted more extensive testing accommodations by the College Board that exceed what can be provided at the normal test centers (Braille testing, over 50 percent extended time testing, testing with a reader, etc.), the College Board 'offers' school testing for the SAT . . . during the school day within a range of days near the normal test administration dates.

"This form of testing has proven to be problematic within MCPS. . . . Given the size of our school system, it is not unusual that for any given test administration we have some students from multiple high schools who need to take advantage of this form of testing. It is not efficient to divert multiple staff members in multiple schools for multiple days from their normal duties in order to test these students. It makes more sense to identify one location where these students can be tested. Additionally, both students and parents have reasonably objected to students losing multiple days of instruction in order to access this form of testing.

"To address these problems, MCPS has for several years developed (with College Board knowledge) a hybrid situation. On those weekends when there is a normal Saturday administration of the SAT, MCPS funds a limited number of individuals to administer at a single site the type of testing that would otherwise be provided by school testing. . . . However, this funding does not cover the provision of readers. Thus, students are charged to cover the cost of acquiring this additional staff."

But wait! Paula Kuebler, executive director of services for students with disabilities at the College Board, says that no matter what the Montgomery County policy might be, the College Board, which hires the Educational Testing Service to write and administer the SAT, considers itself obligated to make reasonable accommodations for students who qualify. And so the College Board sent Montgomery County a check for $86 to pay the person who helped your daughter in March, Kuebler says. That is why you were never billed for that service despite what you were told in the letter.