Students with disabilities are often overlooked in our current educational system. I do not mean that they are denied an education or not given similar opportunities as their peers without disabilities. What I mean is that often students with disabilities are subjected to testing procedures that do not allow them to accurately demonstrate their true knowledge, skills, and abilities. The SAT and ACT are two of the most popular assessments used by post-secondary schools to predict how successful a student will be during their college career. For students with disabilities, these tests can be far more intimidating than to students without disabilities because of issues such as the time limitations.
As another contributor has stated, one accommodation that is often extended to students with disabilities taking the SAT is an extension of time for the test. This is a common classroom testing accommodation that allows students to process the information in the question and select the best possible answer choice. Many students with “mild” disabilities such as learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder benefit from a more flexible testing schedule. Having worked with students with these types of disabilities in a high school setting for five years, I can attest first hand to the fact that allowing students more time on a test is not an unfair advantage. Often these students require extended time and/or flexible scheduling simply to keep them from burning out during the test session. These students do not abuse the difference in the length of the test. Rather, they typically work just as hard during the allotted test time as their peers who do not receive the extended length of time.
Students with ADD/ADHD benefit from extended time because it allows them an opportunity to correct themselves when they lose focus. There are those who believe that students with this condition should just plow ahead and learn to better manage their time. However, this is not an easy thing for these students to do. Time management becomes more difficult for them when they are in a high stress situation, such as while taking the SAT. By allowing them extended time for the test, some of the pressure is taken off the student which allows them to better focus on the task at hand.
Another accommodation that is available to students with disabilities is a read-aloud accommodation. The College Board will send an audio version of the test to the testing site which will be played while the student takes the test. This accommodation is also fair to other students. Students who receive this particular accommodation are often students who struggle with being able to actually read written letters and recognize the words they form. However, these same students can comprehend a passage that is read aloud to them and access the information that way. By having an audio version of the SAT, these students are merely receiving another classroom testing accommodation that has helped them succeed in elementary and secondary settings. The audio recordings sent by the College Board do not give the student hints as to what the correct answers are: they simply read the questions and answer choices so the student can reflect their knowledge.
Both of the accommodations I have mentioned above, extension of time and read-aloud, are used in classrooms across the United States. The students with disabilities who are attempting the SAT are students who are capable of completing the same caliber of class work as their peers without disabilities attempting the SAT. However, they struggle with actually accessing the assessment. Accommodations allow these students to access the assessment in a way that is fair and in line with the testing situations they face in a typical classroom setting.
Although the protections offered to students under IDEA and IDEIA do not extend to the college campus, students with disabilities can access similar support under the regulations of Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Under Section 504, college students with disabilities may request accommodations and/or modifications similar to those put in place by their final high school IEP (Individualized Education Plan). This ensures that the student can continue to achieve the same level of success in post-secondary education as they did in high school.
For those who may be concerned that accommodations are easy to obtain for the SAT, allow me to assure you that there are specific criteria that must be met. If a student does not meet these criteria, they will not receive the accommodation(s). The safeguards the College Board has put into place regarding who is eligible for accommodations on the SAT ensure that only those students who genuinely need these accommodations are allowed to receive them. The process of demonstrating the need for these accommodations can be quite complex and drawn out. This protects against the possible abuse of accommodations by students both with and without disabilities.
The use of accommodations during the SAT is simply a continuation of classroom accommodations. These are testing conditions the student with disabilities are used to performing under. They do not provide the student with an unfair advantage any more so than the same accommodation(s) would on a classroom test. As these accommodations are fairly standard across the country, they should be allowed on the SAT test. The purpose of the accommodations is simply to allow the student to access the test. The accommodations do not alter the content of the test or the overall testing conditions. As such, the use of accommodations on the SAT is not an unfair advantage.
For more information regarding the process of applying for accommodations on the SAT, visit the College Board website at www.collegeboard.com and search for accommodations.