Beyond Breimhorst: Appropriate Accommodation of Students with Learning Disabilities on the SAT
21 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2009
Date Written: July 1, 2007
Until relatively recently, students with documented disabilities -- including learning disabilities -- could apply for, and receive, up to double time on the SAT. But the scores they achieved were still "flagged" with an asterisk, communicating to colleges admissions committees that the scores of such students had been achieved with extended time. Following a lawsuit by a student with a disability, however, Educational Testing Services (ETS) -- the company that creates and administers the SAT -- agreed as part of a settlement that it would cease flagging the scores of students who received extra time.
This Comment examines the consequences of this settlement. Previously, the fact that colleges would know that a score was achieved with extended time provided a disincentive to apply for extra time. But the settlement removes that disincentive. Testing authorities have since documented an upsurge in applications for extended time -- indeed, at some prestigious high schools, over half of all students receive some sort of extended-time accommodation.
I conclude that the previous practice of flagging scores achieved with extended time was undesirable because it unfairly stigmatized students with learning disabilities. Failure to indicate which scores were achieved with extended time, however, harms the validity of the SAT, creates incentives to seek improper diagnosis of learning disabilities, and ultimately disrupts the level playing field that the SAT ideally provides. The Comment concludes that, in light of ETS's statement that the SAT is not designed to measure speed, the best course of action would be to allow all students who desire extended time to have it, thereby maintaining a level playing field while avoiding harm to students with learning disabilities.
Keywords: learning disability, disability, test, SAT, education, rehabilitation act, ADA, accommodation
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation