Extended Time and other Accommodations on the SAT and ACT

Every year the College Board and ACT Inc. receive tens of thousands of requests from parents seeking extended time for their children’s standardized tests. These organizations have a tremendous amount of power and responsibility. They must answer the difficult questions: who truly deserves extended time? How does one create fair and consistent standards to evaluate these myriad requests?

For decades the College Board granted an ever-increasing number of students the opportunity to take the SAT with extended time and other special accommodations. The percentage of students taking the SAT with accommodation rose from roughly 0.6% in 1988 to roughly 2.3% in 2004. Paula Kuebler, Executive Director of the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), said that in 2004 over 55,000 students received special accommodations on the College Board’s standardized tests.

In 2005 the College Board received the greatest number of applications for SAT accommodations in its history. In the same year, the College Board did an abrupt “about face”. It not only did not increase the number of accommodations granted but also reversed a 20+ year trend by offering significantly fewer allowances for accommodation than it had in previous years, turning down tens of thousands of requests.

Why did the College Board change its tune? Why is the College Board fighting back the tide of requests for accommodation? Who will be hurt? And how can deserving students get accommodation in this new environment?

To answer these questions, we must first address the following:

Why is the number of requests increasing so rapidly?

1) More diagnoses = More accommodation

At the most basic level, more people today are being diagnosed with learning disabilities than in any previous era; consequently, more people are requesting SAT/ACT accommodation for these disabilities. In the last 20 years, our methods of assessment, diagnosis and treatment of disabilities have become much more robust, and our very conceptualization of learning disabilities has evolved. Much of the stigma is gone, and more and more people are seeking assessment and treatment for their learning/processing/attentional difficulties. For example, in 2003 the CDC reported that 4.4 million children currently have an ADHD diagnosis and 2.5 million are being medicated for ADHD. It is not surprising that many of these 4.4 million students are requesting extended time on account of their attentional deficits.

2) Accommodation does, in fact, raise scores

It should come as no surprise that having extended time on the SAT or ACT can have a significant impact on testing performance. For those suffering from a disability, accommodation will yield the greatest gains, but even students without disabilities benefit from having more time. The College Board conducted a study using its “experimental sections” to gauge whether or not allotting more time per question would impact student performance. The College Board found that students’ scores did increase with extra time, particularly in math and among higher scoring students.

3) The flag is gone

For decades the College Board placed an asterisk * next to the scores of all students who took the SAT under nonstandard testing conditions. Disability rights activists considered this a form of discrimination and filed multiple suits to revoke the nonstandard designation (*). In 2004, beset by lawsuits, the College Board and ACT Inc., agreed to remove the nonstandard designation, meaning students’ test-scores would no longer be “flagged” as an indication that the students had received extra time or any other special accommodations on their tests. With the flag gone, the number of applications for special accommodations increased dramatically.

If the number of applications for accommodations is increasing, why is the College Board rejecting the majority of applications and decreasing the actual number of accommodations granted?

1) The flag is gone

Some opportunists saw the removal of the asterisk as an opportunity to gain the advantage of extra time without the potential stigma of their tests being “flagged.” Many more students applied and were granted accommodations in 2004 than in previous years. The scores of non-standard test-takers began to rise: in 2004 verbal scores among students with accommodation jumped 8 points and math scores among the same population jumped 7 points. This alarmed the College Board and indicated that the pool of students applying for accommodation was apparently changing.

2) The curve is wrong

Hypothetically, if you distributed the scores of all students sitting for the SAT on a curve, with or without accommodation, it should approximate the normal curve (a.k.a. the “bell-curve”). When the College Board plotted the 2005 results of students taking the test with accommodations, the results yielded not a bell-curve but rather a bi-modal distribution (meaning the distribution was top and bottom heavy with a disproportionate number of low scoring and high scoring students rather than a tendency toward the mean). This greatly alarmed the College Board that the population of students receiving accommodation did not mirror the rest of the population.

3) The 2000 California Audit

In 2000, concerned that racial and demographic privilege was playing a role in the assignment of accommodation and extended time, the California state legislature requested an audit of SAT practices in the state. Elaine Howle, CA state auditor, concluded that the students receiving accommodation “were disproportionately white, or were more likely to come from an affluent family or to attend a private school.” An analysis of the numbers from the report yielded the following figures: white students were over-represented by 45%, students coming from families whose incomes exceed $100,000 were over-represented by 139%, and students from private schools were over-represented by 100%. The report also concluded that 18.2% of the requests granted were of “questionable” merit and gave students an “unwarranted” and “unfair” advantage. The report cited weaknesses in the College Board’s approval process as the cause of some of the unfair distribution.

So what does all this mean?

In this new world of testing, more and more people are applying for accommodation, and the College Board is granting fewer and fewer of these requests. This creates a difficult situation for many students and families. Over the last five years I have personally worked with students who have desperately needed extra time but whose requests were denied by the College Board. I have also worked with students who ultimately received accommodation and increased 350+ points, dramatically impacting their academic futures. I know first-hand the impact extended timing can make.

Some of you have children or are working with students who have a legitimate need for accommodation. So what can you do to help them receive accommodations on their college admissions tests?

If I want to apply for accommodation, how does the system work?

First off, be forewarned: the process of applying for and receiving accommodation is difficult and success is far from guaranteed. According to one Atlanta psychologist, there is no true rhyme or reason why some students receive accommodation and why some students are turned down. However, understanding the following can help you navigate the application process:

How much do high school accommodations matter?

To be eligible for accommodation on the national standardized tests, the College Board requires that you are receiving accommodations for testing in your own high school.

Until a few years ago, the College Board had a simple policy: if your high school granted you accommodation, the College Board would generally defer to your high school’s judgment and follow suit. The College Board sought to minimize the investment of its own resources and would leave the burden of allocating accommodations to the high-schools. But with the dramatic increase in accommodation requests, the College Board decided that it had to take on a greater level of involvement and oversight. The College Board now independently evaluates each request according to its own chosen criteria.

Which criteria do the College Board use to determine who has a disability?

For years, the College Board primarily used the criteria for disability outlined in our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA conceptualized disability using the “discrepancy model” in which a student’s disability is gauged by comparing his or her potential to her or her performance. If a student’s achievement test scores greatly lag behind his or her IQ score, this indicates a performance discrepancy and a potential disability.

Recently the College Board and ACT Inc. have been moving away from the IDEA disability diagnosis model towards the model outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA model does not compare the student’s actual performance to his or her potential performance. Rather, it compares the student’s performance to that of the average person; not to his or her peers or self, but to the norm. If a student is performing 1-2 standard deviations above the norm already but could score higher, he or she will have a difficult time getting accommodation using the ADA standards.

Under the ADA model, to get accommodation a student must demonstrate how his/her daily academic functioning is impaired. This is the new gold standard: evidence of functional impairment. According to the ADA, what may be a relative weakness may not indicate a true disability. Under this new ADA model, requests for accommodation for attention deficit disorders and many other types of disabilities are being denied left and right.

What kind of evidence does the College Board require to grant accommodation?

1) Formal evidence of a disability provided by an official evaluation

To receive accommodation a student must present evidence of a disability as defined by the ADA or IDEA. In the public school system the evidence comes from a formal psychological evaluation leading to the creation of either an Individual Education Plan or a 504 plan to address the disability. For public school students the College Board will want to see evidence of an active IEP (defined in section B of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act) or 504 plan (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 under ADA). Both the IEP and the 504 plan outline the disability, accommodation, goals for the student and more. Most public school students are evaluated in-house, but parents can pay for an external evaluation from a psychologist. Generally the College Board is more sympathetic to students who receive an in-house evaluation than to those who go outside their public school system.

Private school students generally take a different path since most private schools don’t have in-house school psychologists to perform the testing necessary to secure accommodation. It is possible for a private school student to self-refer to the counselors/psychologist in his/her local public school system for a psychological evaluation, but most families I have worked with have opted for an external evaluation from a licensed psychologist to gain evidence of a disability. A full neuropsychological report can run anywhere from $1500-$2500.

2) Evidence that you have received accommodation for testing in your high school for at least 4 months prior to taking the SAT and 12 months prior to taking the ACT

The College Board wants to see a long history of your disability. Ideally a parent can show a trail of accommodations from elementary school onward since this will help the student’s cause; however, sometimes this is not a possibility. Sometimes a particular disability does not become apparent until late in a student’s academic career. Compensatory techniques can carry a student so far, but eventually, as the academic demands increase, it is harder and harder for a student with a disability to get by. Even if a student has a late onset disability, it is still possible to get accommodation. The heuristic is that you need to show evidence of school accommodation for a minimum of 4 months for the SAT and 12 months for the ACT, or you will be hard pressed to receive test accommodation.

3) Letters and data from teachers describing the student’s disability and performance

You will need the support of your teachers and their documentation to secure accommodation from the College Board.

How does the filing and appeal process work?

First, you must get all the appropriate paperwork together. The College Board will want to see evidence of the IEP, 504 plan or psych evaluation.

When your papers are gathered you must submit your application to the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Coordinator at the College Board. The SSD has offices operating out of Princeton, NJ and NYC. Know that it will take 7 weeks to get your initial answer. If you do not send your documentation to the College Board 7 weeks before the test, you are out of luck.

The Rule of Thumb in requesting accommodation is simple: For the first go around, almost everyone gets turned down. Expect to be denied your initial request for accommodation.

Next, you must make your first appeal. Again, you may be denied. You may have to issue a 2nd or 3rd appeal. Some of the parents with whom I have worked have hired disability attorneys to push things through. There are lawsuits all over the place with parents trying to secure the accommodations that could help their children.

Ultimately, it becomes a negotiation. If you persist, the officers at the College Board will generally concede to get you off of their case. The word on the street is that three appeals is the average needed to secure accommodation. So if you feel strongly, don’t give up.

Also, be mindful of what type of accommodations you are seeking. The College Board is comfortable granting time-and-a-half but only rarely grants double time. If you want double time or the ability to type your essay on a computer, it will be incredibly hard to get. The College Board will demand a full psychological evaluation or a neuropsychological evaluation, and it will not be an easy process.

By now you realize that this is not an easy thing to get, but getting accommodation can make a world of difference to some students. Here is the final list of things to do if you are seeking accommodation:

The Short List:

  1. Do not waste time; get on this ASAP!
  2. Read the College Board web-site and know all the time frames.
  3. You have got to have the data from your teachers. If none exists then there is no chance of getting accommodation. So, gather all the data and scores you can.
  4. Professional reports can take 3-6 weeks. Talk to the examiner- can the person meet the deadlines? Be mindful of his/her time too.
  5. Start with the PSAT. The earlier the better.
  6. Get evaluated: you have to have documentation for any accommodation.
  7. It is extraordinarily helpful to have a paper trail, so start whenever you can.

Conclusion

I hope this was generally informative and particularly helpful to those in the middle of this process or to those who are pondering entering this process. Again, extra time and other accommodations are critical to the success of some students on college admissions tests. With the right resources and support, it is still possible to secure these accommodations and help young people find their way to academic success and collegiate admissions.

Sources:


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  • Brent

    I have recently been through this process and agree with all of the above. It seems to me that it is especially important to have letters from teachers which document that the student will perform LOWER THAN AVERAGE if the accommodation is not offerred. And, it is true that it will require a number of tries.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps the SAT and ACT test makers should extend the time for all test takers if average kids cannot finish the test. My son is ADHD. He has been on medicine sinces 2nd grade. His first ACT he was unable to finish any subject tests, but the longer the test went on, the less he was able to focus. His composite score was 20, with his lowest score being an 18 the last test, Science. We had no 504 or IEP plan at school since we felt ten years of accomodations would ultimately do more harm than good. We had a lot of psychoeducational testing done which showed his intelligence in the top 5% but his processing speed in the bottom 20%. We requested, and received, 50% more time. We could have asked for more but felt had a better chance asking for less. He took itest w/accomodations two times. He scored a 32 the first time even though his medicine wore off before finishing Science section. He took again with the extra time and 8 hour medicine and scored a 35. He got a 36 in Science. It is not that extended time gives him a major advantage, its that the lack of it gives him a major disadvantage.

  • Max

    I submitted for extended time for my son who is dyslexic and has had an IEP since 4th grade. He was granted the SAT immediately and the ACT sent a letter explaining that this student should resubmit with a “paper trail”. I sent a huge paper trail as well as additional letters from teachers and tutors (ACT suggested this) and he was granted the 50 percent more time. It is worth resubmitting. I agree with the person above..it is not that extended time gives him an advantage, its that the lack of it gives him a major disadvantage.

  • Kathy

    My daughter recently took the SAT and could not finish any of the sections. She has always struggled with finishing tests on time in school but this is the first time it has really counted. Needless to say, she did not score very high. Does anybody have a suggestion on how I can obtain the testing discussed in the comments associated with this article? Now that she is going into 11th grade I don’t know if it is too late to get her tested, diagnosed, and then approved for additional time. I would appreciate any suggestions. We live in the Atlanta area. Thank you very much.

  • Sue – Sept.2009

    I appreciate listening to all you stories about helping students with disabilities obtain the accommodations they need on standardized tests. I have been trying for a very long time to get extended time and ready to give up. The student in question was declassified in 6th grade and just recently had a 504 plan put in place in high school. She has attention and focusing problems. Along with binocular problems, (accommodative and convergence insufficiency). She has had this since diagnosed at 6 years olds. Could anyone tell me why the standardized consultants put no merit in this diagnosis? I know that the students ability to focus and have her eyes work together affect her academic work especially the reading process. As her reading process is labored, rereading many times to comprehend the passage. I was told that a behavioral optometrist doesn’t have the experience that opthamologist has and you can’t compare the knowledge. I was told that opthamologist has years of experience over the behavioral optometrist. Just so you know the consultant they send to is an opthamologist who I assume has no knowledge or separates himself from the knowledge out there about binocular problems. So, if you want your students documentation to be even looked at seriously it needs to come from an opthamologist not an optometrist. I think they forgot to tell all the people who are studying to become optometrists at SUNY or UC Berkeley etc. that these diagnoses are not valid and do not affect anyones life. Its strange that these diagnoses are found under insurance as CPT codes. Today opthamologists are concerned with eye disease and surgery and rightly so but there is more to vision. I hope some day that more opthamologists believe the impact that binocular problems can have on a persons life. More research needs to be done in the future. So much research has been discovered about the brain in the last 10 years. People need to find more about the eye and learning because as reported at John Hopkins “Vision doesn’t happen in the eye,” “It happens at multiple processing stages in the brain. Its very hard to find out what documentation a committee is looking for to approve or disapprove accommodations. As people have said before it is a long drawn out process and you have to be diligent with the process following everything to the letter. Make sure documentation is on time and remember each time you submit new documentation the reviewing process starts all over again which will delay your initial decision and possibly affect the test center that you have selected. I wish everyone good luck in helping their students obtain their accommodations in the future.

  • Anonymous

    This is sad there denying students I have ADHD since 2nd grade now in my 11 grade and its my first time taking an AP class and im doing terrible i CANNOT perform under time limit it stresses me and i blank out. I don’t get accommodations at my school, so hopefully i could get receive extended time.

  • anonymous

    I thought the administrators of the ACT were educators? Obviously they have a lack of knowledge in the area of learning differences. I would be interested in knowing what percentage of students taking the ACT get extended time compared to the percentage
    of students with documented learning differences. It seems to be one more incedent of discrimination our children continue to face only because they were born with learning differences. We have been unsuccessful in getting extended time on the ACT for our son and it is extremely disheartening.

  • Anonymous

    The Acadamies say they will not accept any testing with accomodations. If there is nothing on the scores they are sent, how would they knowl.? Is there something in the application process that asks if there were any extended given?

  • jenny

    my son has had an IEP since kindergarten. We submitted for accommodations including 100% extra time, a reader, a computer and small group setting. I submitted psycho educational reports from 9th grade and 6th grade which were done by the school psychologist at our zoned public school. Amazingly, we were granted everything we asked for, on the first go around.

    The key is you have to be severely learning disabled. By severely learning disabled, I mean reading and doing math several grades below grade level. maybe the reason so many are being turned down is because they don’t really need the accommodations. and when all these kids apply for accommodations who don’t really need it, it kind of muddles the field for those who do.

  • Reid

    This was a thorough and well-documented article that decribes trends I’ve seen in my practice, and it provides valuable advice to parents helping disabled students compete on a level-playing field.

    Increasingly there are alternatives to fighting for accommodations: more and more colleges are forgoing the requirement that SAT or ACT scores be submitted by applicants. These include some of the top tier schools in a trend led by Wake Forest University. There careful research before and after changing the policy found that there are better ways to identify students who will do well in their programs and bring talents to their universities. There are several lists you can find from a search on the web. You can start with http://www.eduinreview.com/blog/2009/08/the-end-of-sat-test-requirements-for-college-admissions/ or http://www.FairTest.org .

  • Good luck with SAT accomodations!

    Well someone needs to say that College Board states they will review your request in up to 7 weeks. Today is the 7th week and my daughter’s test is Saturday, two days away. They STILL have not decided whether to provide accomodations. This is just WRONG….

    I had her psychiatrist complete the paperwork. She graduated in May 2009 so we could not use the IEP. We requested back in December hoping for the Jan 23 test date. Well that was hopeless.

    Jan 18 the MD faxed the papers and we received a letter dated Jan 21 confirming SSD received the documentation.

    Get this….I called Feb 19 and they said the beginning of the week prior to the test, the status would be determined. Monday, this week they said they have until Thursday. Today, Thursday they said they have until “close of business” tomorrow. BTW the rep could not tell me when that is.

    I asked for director’s and headquarter’s phone number and the rep would NOT give me this information. What type of inhumane organization is this? To expect disabled students to hop through these hoops is not in the spirit of IDEA or ADA or any US laws. Their constant excuse is that they receive “thousands of requests” and I now read only 2% of students request or recieve these.

    My student has ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and had had double to five times for standardized testing. THis includes the CAHSEE, English and Math placement tests for her college and all current college classes (double). Processing speed is very slow but cognitive is normal range.

    Of course the Mar 13 test date is the last test date you can use to report to California colleges and US colleges as the national deadline for freshman admissions is May 1.

    So if you are in high school, maybe start your SOPHOMORE year so they can get the review/rejection/appeal all in place by your JUNIOR year.

    I finally found the general counsel for ETS the umbrella organization and had to state this was discriminatory practice in my opinion. This person said they’d look into the issue.

    Good luck and this process needs to be seriously looked at by ADA advocates.

    A determined mom of a very determined student in CA.

  • Good luck with SAT accomodations!

    Make sure you know that they say 7 weeks and today is our 7th week to the day and we still don’t know for the Saturday test (2 days from now).

    The documentation was faxed Jan 18 and is 7 lines by my student’s psychiatrist.

    Also March is the last test date for colleges nationwide for the May 1 admissions acceptance date.

    So if you can’t get your accomodations approved by the March test date, forget getting those scores to colleges by April or May….

    The telephone rep for SSD for College Board tells you it is in review, and they get “thousands” of requests. They promise the week before the test, the Thurs before the test and now the close of business the day before the test.

    SSD and College Board would not give me the phone number for their corporate headquarters in NY. I found in on Google and the general counsel for ETS, the umbrella organization for SAT and all other college tests. They actually called me back within 10 minutes.

    Since my student graduated in May 2009, the IEP could not be used. Don’t make this mistake. Get the accomodations sophomore year for junior year testing dates. That way if they deny, you can appeal and hopefully get the decision approved in time.

    Good luck..

  • cf

    I am in a district where many private schools are located. It is very disheartening when these schools try to circumvent the system by requesting evaluations for services for 11th graders. We all know what this is about!! I just received a request for two students identified as ADHD who want to be evaluated so that they will be eligible for extended time. Their grades are excellent, so the ADHD does not impede their academic performance!! The fact that they boldly state that their goal is merely to obtain extended time for the SATs, makes me so angry. This practice makes it even more difficult for our special needs students who really need this accommodation.

  • Bonnie

    I am the mother of a 17 year-old daughter. December of 2008, my daughter began having seizures and was diagnosed with JME, a type of epilepsy that usually appears around age 15 or 16; she will never grow out of it. At the time, she was taking honors classes and doing extremely well in school (4.0 her Freshman and Sophomore years). It took several months to get medication regulated (still ongoing) and the side effects are terrible. I approached the (public) school about an IEP and/or a 504 but they refused because she was not failing. Her grades were dropping due to impaired memory and attention. The school and school board officials told me the order from the Neurologist for additional time on tests was not worth the paper it was written on.

    I decided to enroll her in private school at the beginning of her Junior year. She struggles but the teachers and administrators are working with her and allowing for extended time on her tests. The class size is smaller and she can come in at lunch and on breaks to complete assignments.

    Her Neurologist recently diagnosed her with ADD. There are huge sections of her life she has no memory of. Stress in one of her seizure triggers and the stress of a timed test makes her anxiety level unbearable. She takes medication for the anxiety and attention disorder (both side effects of the anticonvuslants); but to little avail.

    We are in the process of requesting additional time on ACT and hope we will be one of the lucky ones.

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

  • Jay

    Seriously, How do the military academies get away with saying they do not accept tests with accommodations? And I agree with a previous submission; how do they know?

  • Karen

    This is not entirely correct:
    “The key is you have to be severely learning disabled. By severely learning disabled, I mean reading and doing math several grades below grade level. maybe the reason so many are being turned down is because they don’t really need the accommodations. and when all these kids apply for accommodations who don’t really need it, it kind of muddles the field for those who do.”

    My student is add inattentive, and it was very difficult to get him extra time at school because his IQ is in the 140’s. They did not think it was “fair” to the other students to give him extra time and let him stay in honors classes at school. The teachers were completely in his corner, and said he would be bored and actually perform just as bad or worse in the regular curriculum. I was finally able to get him extra time and he was allowed to stay in the honors classes. We did have to have outside testing done, and he was at least 2-3 standard deviations different between fluency/processing speeds and IQ.

    Because he started having the 504 in 5th grade, and has had extra time since then, I think that is why the College Board gave him time and a half in short order by the time we asked at beginning of junior year. I just didn’t want parents of twice exceptional students to give up without trying! We all want our children to be able to do their best.

  • LS of NC

    Thank you, Karen!

    I had the same feelings when reading the comment you quoted. The one about being below grade level as the only indicator that a student would “need” accomodation. My boys both have Asperger’s syndrome and it is a constant fight for any accomodations to be followed regularly even when listed on an IEP. There is an almost “classist” attitude among special education personnel and parents. In our experience it has been common to hear that my children are smart “enough” or doing well “enough” in school and that someone else needs the help more than they do. We just got back our first PSAT results and our eldest son wasn’t even able to finish 2 of the batteries. That’s when we found this site. It appears to be excellent advice and we are starting on the process for the PSAT next year! Wish us luck!

  • L.

    Thanks for everyone’s comments on theis. My teen has ADD diagnosis since 4th grade. she could not get a section 504 in elementary because she was not a “C” or below average student. She has a processing disorder that hinders her ability to complete exams under timed conditions. She got her 504 in high school as a sophomore. We were accepted for SAT accommodations for extended time (50% more) immediately, but denied for ACt extended time, like everyone else. They want the paper trail. Problem is that she has none, as far as poor grades (below average). She went to a charter middle school and all teachers up until 10th grade accommodated her off-the-record to allow her the time to finish tests outside normal test taking hours. This is a big BUMMER, so to speak, for her anyway to not have had the trail and failing grades, but we were not going to jeopardize her GPA for failing grades at the time. We have psychological and neuropsychological testing results identifying cognitive and processing defecits that were submitted to ACT, but it looks like they chose to ignore the results. What do we do about this? does anyone have a suggestion? Thanks.

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  • SG

    How can you say their ADHD doesn’t impede their academic performance. Most likely if they didn’t have parents concerned and on top of their education they would be drop-outs in our society and we would be paying for them…perhaps in and out of prison? Why should anyone care if a person wants extra time. If it helps that one person, it helps everyone else in society. It isn’t hurting the people who really need it. What’s hurting people with possibly more severe disabitlities is people being so concerned about the fairness factor. There is no fairness factor in life. Why wouldn’t you want someone who is brilliant but possibly has slow processing speed have extra time? What if that person can’t acheive to their full potential because of some timed test that may determine their entire future and possibly the futures of others? What if that person got to where he needed to be because he wasn’t judged on how fast he was, but rather on his intelligence unrelated to time and became the person to discover the cure to cancer? Would that be unfair? The only reason their are more wealthy kids getting extended time is because their parents have the means to have them tested. If they would just give more people extra time it would benefit us all. People like yourself need to look at the BIG picture here and start helping ALL of our kids!!! And by the way, why do you think those kids with ADHD and excellent grades are doing so well? It’s called medication.

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  • Debpix

    That’s exactly what I have learned as I’ve attempted to get extended time with ACT–you must show that your starting point is somewhere below average. My son starts out in the middle and scores significantly highter with extra time, so he’s been turned down twice by ACT. SAT, on the other hand, apparently is easier to work with.  

  • anonymous

    I agree with the accommodation and helping kids with disadvantages, but nonetheless the colleges should be informed that the kid had 50% more time than everybody else. How can a “Standardized Test” not be standard? 

  • Mikey

    Also known as intelligence steroids, but only rich people afford them

  • Mikey

    This is unfair, if I was a college, I would want to know how well students can preform, not how they preform “with accommodations that I need to make and that you didn’t warn me about”. 

  • anne

    my son has had a 504 plan in place since entering middle school however for extended time on the SAT we need to get him retested since his testing was done in elementary school.  When he gets retested should he take his concerta medication to be able to concentrate better or should he be retested without medication.

  • Diana Hughes

    As a person with a learning disability, the extra time that we get allows us to be one the same playing field with other student in the class. Its kind of like asking a child with one juicer and 5 oranges and a giving another child 5 juicers and 5 oranges to make the same amount of juice just as quickly. Students with a learning disability are often times doing double the work, therefore the deserve double the time and shouldn’t be discriminated against in the college process which the policy you suggested may cause. 

  • Meda

    I happen to agree with CF 100%. My daughter has severe impairment due to lyme disease. She can’t remember things, and she takes hours to read and re-read material. She has severe fatigue as well, and is on 3 different medications. She can’t get extra time for her SAT’s APs etc. because there is no time to prove she can’t process as fast as other kids. She was diagnosed with lyme in 2007, and her unqualified, imo, pediatrician didn’t believe in lyme! Year after year she was testing positive and the symptoms got worse until we finally found a LLMD. As soon as she began meds last June 2011, she herxed because of all the toxins in her body, so we had to stop the meds. She started up on them in March of this year and we are going slowly. She failed neuropsyche testing (acc to the dr who tested her, she did worse than an alzheimer’s patient), but because it takes 7 weeks for accommodations, my daughter did her SATs and took her APs without accommodations. She’s a smart girl with neurological damage. She had a spinal tap to prove it too and it showed the lyme protein in her spinal fluid. She didn’t finish any of her tests, but she persisted. 

    Along come the hedge-funders kids who all go to the same neuropsyche tester in a certain town in our affluent county, and they pay $3500, and suddenly they ALL have ADD whether they like it or not. They take ADD meds to focus and to lose weight. There are kids that deal these pills, and the schools ignore it. One day someone will die from these pills, because they have an undiagnosed heart condition, or they are drinking with them (which is all too common these days). It’s just a matter of time before it happens. 

    Money buys ADD diagnosis and meds. It is very true that poor smart kids cannot afford the testing or the shrewd dr’s that can be bought. The cheating is rampant. Parents who live vicariously through their kids, and they write their college apps and essays for them, and then the kid has a breakdown when he/she can’t function in college. I heard recently that parents are even doing homework for kids IN college! When is this going to stop? That’s why the suicide rates, drinking and drugs are increasing. The stress of competition is driving these kids mad. 

    And SG, are you kidding me? If they are able to get straight A’s and great SAT scores, they do NOT need extra time or meds! That is simply BS. It’s gaming the system, and the parents should be ashamed of themselves. They are raising a bunch of cheaters not successful adults. Life is going to hit them in the face when they get into the real world.

  • meda

    ACT is nearly impossible to get. I know people who got accommodations for SATs but not for ACT. They run a tight ship.

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  • Import32

    This article was exceptionally helpful in giving me insight into both the process and the mindset of the SAT/ACT officials. I felt ‘late to the party’ and like a deer in the headlights when I realized that my daughters (twins) needed extended time and we didn’t have much of what seemed to be needed to get approval. Our situation was that one had been diagnosed as being dyslexic at the age of 8 and the other one ADHD (inattentive type). We moved states numerous times during their elementary/middle school years, and schools were not supportive of any accomodation or help as they were seen as bright kids and were doing ‘fine’ grade wise. A lot of the reason for their reasonable grades was LOTS of tutoring support and help and LOTS of time studying. Throughout high school, they have had tutoring and when not in a sporting activity (needed as stress relief and positive feelings of success) they spend an inordinate number of hours studying. The school counselor has been wonderfully supportive but basically said we didn’t have a chance to get an accomodation. We submitted a request w/the old testing done 9yrs ago and some ADHD testing that was more 4 yrs ago, supporting documentation from the psych (resp. for ADD meds for both) was included. First time rejected.  Had a polite discussion w/someone from ACT who suggested supporting documentation from tutors. Rejected due to ‘late submission’ though it was sent on time, they said they didn’t receive. Now for this Sept ’12 test, we added new psycho-neuro test data ($$$$) and had the opportunity to speak to the ACT rep who had the file (fluke, miracle or exceptionally human evaluator ?? I don’t know). Had a very polite exchange explaining our situation and asking for help to understand how the determination is made. The key to the conversation was her explanation that although an individual can have a proven disability, the key is whether or not that disability requires the person to need extra time. She gave the example of a documented autistic student Asperger’s type, who obviously has a disability, but can sit down and zoom through the test. We did not have a formal IEP or 504, though the school acknowledged it has been now asked for and is being considered AND the teachers have ‘informally’ allowed the girls to have extended time on tests. ACT asked for us to have three questions answered by the teachers.  1. Are they being offered extended time for tests? 2. Are they using extended time?  3. How frequently or when are they using extended time? I discussed that they do not need or use extended time for normal quizzes or tests (as they are not designed to take the entire class hour) BUT did need it for ‘big’ tests such as final exams. ACT said they understand that difference. We provided the short, simple 3 question sheets from the teachers (along with previously stated info) I sent a cover letter, giving bullet points of situation, and we were approved.  Miracle? Empathetic ACT evaluator? Or documentation from variety of sources that showed a long history of an ‘issue’ (dyslexia/ADD) but more importantly – validation that they were affected and had to do so much more studying and have so much more support that it has a significant adverse affect on their lives?  Not sure what was the key piece or whether all of it and persistence in not giving up on reapplying for extended time.  Thanks for a helpful article, that made me decide to keep trying.

  • guest

    I agree with you up until your last paragraph…yes, the kids who recieve a diagnosis because their parents have money are gaming the system, but this does not mean that an A student with excellent scores does not need extra time. I am an A student, I have a 2030 on my SAT, but I have a slow processing speed. You have no idea how hard I work to get the grades and the scores I deserve. It hurts when the College Board tells you that you’re just to far above average for accomodations. Should I be satisfied with my scores? Probably. But I’m not because I know its not my best. In fact, kids with disabilities who give up on themselves and rely on extra to bring their scores up are gaming the system. If I was to give up on myself I would get accomodations, no questions asked. But because my grades are good, I have to suffer on the SAT. Life isn’t fair, sometimes even for the rich smart kids. Don’t judge someone until you have walked a day in their shoes.

  • NMJen

    I completely disagree with the last comment and any comment indicating that letting disbaled students have accommodations for ACT/SAT is is anyway unfair. If you knew what you were talking about you would know how exhaustive the process is to get an “accomodation” of any type on those tests. My son has ADHD and to get any extra time or anything else we have to go jump through so many hoops it’s not even funny. Go to the Website of College Board or better yet ETS that administers the ACT and look at all the diagnostic testing a student has to submit to and all the documents you have to produce in order to prove you need more time.

    Giving a student with severe ADHD the ACT/SAT without any accomodation would be like giving not letting a blind student have the test in braile. How fair is that?

  • Con Cerned

    Does this mean everyone should go to college? Students needing extra time to achieve a range of standardized test scores, and presumably entering a college with that SAT range, will have to manage similar course loads as students who did not require extra time. What is more, upon entering the workforce after graduating, these students will be entering a cut-throat environment which these laws have poorly prepared them for. 

    On the whole, there is some reason why every student who scores low on these tests does so. Personally, I think it has more to do with nature – growing up in a healthy environment, getting an excellent early education, and having resources to prepare adequately for standardized tests – than nature. That being said, some children do have disabilities. But, isn’t ABILITY the very thing we’re testing for. 

  • I had dyslexia and what you say is unfair.  I had to work twice as hard as most of my class mates to get A’s and B’s all through out school.  I always did awful on the standardize tests because when I was young they were timed.  I knew I was not dumb but it made me feel awful not doing very well on them.  I did not even take very seriously my SAT test because it was timed and I knew I could not do well since my reading was so slow.  To this day I read very slow compared to most adults but I still can comprehend just fine.  If I had gotten more time when I was young it probably would have made a huge difference for me. Even math is slower when you have to read so many word problems.  Just because they are doing well does not mean that they do not need the extra time.

  • Guest

    Hi, I just came across this article and was wondering if anyone has filed for accommodations for physical problems?  My daughter has scoliosis, diagnosed about 5 years ago.  2 years go, she went through full-back surgery in which they put metal rods on both sides of her spine from her neck to the bottom of her back.  As many people are aware, there are varying severities of scoliosis, but her case is very severe.  Even after the surgery, her pain is constant, daily.  Taking standardized tests just makes it worse because being bent over for so long hurts her even more.  Do you think we can apply for some type of accommodation, or even extra time so that she can have more breaks in between to relax her back?  She has not made good scores in the past because she is in so much pain trying to get through the test.

  • Maddie

    I have always been a step behind my two older sisters they are brilliant and nothing got in their way; I, on the other hand, have severe dyslexia and ADD as well as mild Azbegers. I was just granted extra time on the ACT and it made all the difference.  On my last ACT I recived a 33 in the Reading portion but I only got through three and a half of the five passages boefor the five minuet mark; The only way i could have gotten that score is if I answered every question correctly, I could only imagine if I had more time what my score will be. 

  • Claire

    CF, if this makes you angry, perhaps a different line of work would be better for you.  Clearly you do not really understand what a Specific Learning Disability is, and is not.  Did you ever consider that these kids do well in school because they work hard, get the accommodations they need at school, and their parents have seen to it that they are in a classroom situation more suitable to their needs?  Small classes, a quieter surrounding, and teachers who are not so harried that they can be more cooperative in allowing students to operate within their boundaries make for much more successful students.

  • Anonymous

    As a student who was diagnosed with both ADHD as will as visual tracking issues wiggle still in elementary school, I am aware of how difficult it is for a mentally disabled student to move through an ap or sat exam with speed and accuracy. I find that I can not preform to my true potential due to these constraints placed on me. This being said how can any of you truly know what it’s like until you are debilitated yourself? In my case the college board has rejected me twice, and it in turn has been lowered my scores tremendously. The point that I am trying to make is that additional time simply levels the playing field, and puts those students at the level of there peers.

  • Nitin

    Media, I’m sorry about your issue. I’m just now reading this, about a year after you posted it, but your daughter should consider working on her health problems, repeating junior year and taking these tests again with appropriate accommodations.

  • s j

    By Law, examinations must “accurately reflect the individual’s aptitude”. When the ETS fails to grant accommodations because a student already performs above the norm, they are violating the law. Until individuals who have this right violated keep making a point of this, the ETS will continue to break the law.

  • Leah

    Not true at all. I know a girl who got an 800 on her math SAT and had time to read passages in the critical reading section 6+ times after receiving extended time. She has ADHD. She is known to be one of the most intelligent girls in her grade, despite her disability, so it’s absolute crap to say that she needed extended time. Anyone who receives extra time can do better. It’s not leveling the playing field- to level the playing field would be to make the test absolutely standard for everyone, no exceptions.

  • Claire

    Meda, If your daughter has had the problem since 2007, why wait until the last minute to have her tested? It sounds more like sour grapes that other parents made sure things were taken care of in a timely manner, but you did not.
    Your last paragraph shows that you do not understand learning disabilities at all. Because they are successful, does not mean their processing speed is the same as everyone else’s. Needing more time, is time to finish because you process much slower, and differently. It is not cheating at all to be able to finish the test. It is not a quality issue, but a time issue.
    A learning disability effects how you do things, not how well you do them. It does not mean a lower ability level at all, in fact the opposite is generally true.

  • Claire

    Leah, this mythical girl…. You are obviously not familiar at all with learning disabilities, or the rigorous testing needed to obtain accommodations. It does level the playing field, allowing those who process much more slowly than the average person, ( the generalized average person, not just those going to college), to have the same opportunity to consider each question.
    Since you do not understand learning disabilities, what you can understand is that LSAC in particular is spending millions on lawyer’s fees every year defending their discriminatory practices. This is making the test much more expensive for everyone. Testing agencies that fight this so vigorously are using your money to do it.

  • Abrianie

    Leah,You are the best example whe the people need extra time to anwer question, every kid is differe.

  • The Unknown

    What happens if you did not call to confirm that you were accepted for accommodations and your test is in a day or two, can you reschedule your test date? What do you do?

  • Anonymous

    If a kid gets the right answers why should the length it took them to get that answer matter? Same with college, no one is on a four year plan anymore. Everyone completes their undergrad in 5+ years now but guess what… THEY STILL GET A BACHELORS DEGREE. So once again, why is there a time limit on everything? Personally I believe it’s better to NOT rush through schooling or anything at that and take your time.

  • Andrea K

    I am truly surprised at all the backlash in
    these comments regarding giving accommodations to a standardized test. The
    American’s with Disabilities Act has been in place much longer than these posts
    yet the perceptions have not changed. If we were talking about a
    person unable to enter the building due to their lack of limbs, we wouldn’t be
    having this discussion. The fact is, those with disabilities are not getting an
    advantage when they receive extra time, they are receiving assistance to prove what
    they know and not how fast they can regurgitate it. Colleges want to know how
    smart kids are, not how quick.

  • Patience

    Con: as a business owner in a cut throat industry I need people who can think deeply, creatively and edit their work. So in reality I would rather have someone bright with a slower processing speed or someone with ADD than someone who thinks ABILITY is SPEED related.

    So to explain why a person might need longer time keep in mind that there is IQ and there is processing speed. If a person has a high IQ but a low processing speed does that him or her less educable than a person with an average IQ and a fast processing speed?

    In the work world do the great researchers or inventors work like a bond trader? Is one better than another?

    If a man had no leg but could drive a car with hand controls would you declare him to be unfit to drive?

    Your life will benefit from learning about how people actually achieve rather than smugly excluding people. I would exclude you in the hiring process as being too small minded. Hope this helps.

  • Georgia Sand

    I don’t care what the hell your kid has, until you have to live with it yourself, don’t presume to know what the fuck you’re talking about. Not every case of ADHD is the same as the other, and for people who truly need extended time, the difference is staggering. You’re full of shit.