Sat and Learning Disabilities – Yes

Flexible time is everything for a student with a mild learning disability. This is particularly true for those who have intellectual capacities that are equal to or better than their non-disabled peers. The only thing that may hold some of these students back from obtaining a higher level of education at a four-year college is their inability to process information at the same rate as their peers. For this reason, it’s only fair that those students with disabilities (and fair to the students without it) should be given extra time to finish the Scholastic Assessment Test.

 The SAT is commonly used by four-year institutions as an essential tool for admission into their universities. And, over the years, it has been made up of several timed sections. It’s not the only process a university administrator will use when deciding on a student’s admittance into the university, but it can be a deal-breaker.

This test is supposed to assess what the students know, not how fast they can come up with it or how they learned it. Still, the proctors of this test sets the time for each section. While this part of the test-taking procedure may seem minor to the general education student, a student with processing disorder will struggle to answer the questions in a pressured, timed situation.

Timed tests put students with processing disorders or Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD) at a disadvantage. Processing disorders refers to one’s ability to gather visual or auditory messages and convert it into meaning. Often the stimuli enter the eyes or ears, heads to a certain part of the brain, and is processed into a meaningful message or understanding. Students with processing disorders may be able to see or hear these stimuli in a normal fashion, but may have delays in processing the information (sometimes up to three to five seconds). Also, processing disorders may affect a student’s short-term memory.

Discoveries about processing disorders (which is possibly the most common form of a learning disorder) have not gone unnoticed by college and university officials. Since the 1990s, junior colleges and public universities have established special resource centers in which students with physical or learning disabilities are served through tutoring, technological aides, and accommodations of a professor’s lesson plan (it should be noted that several professors or instructors at the university level will accommodate for students they know have learning disabilities).

Making accommodations for standardized tests at the high school level is now common practice. The system is not perfect (as evidence of the California High School Exit Exam prove). But, the testing companies usually provide rules and instructions to be used for the purpose of accommodating or even modifying their tests for these particular students.

The most popular accommodation (in which the content of the material is not changed, but the approach is) is flexible time. This form of accommodation allows the student more time to process visual information at their level.So why should the SAT be different and not offer the same accommodations when other critical tests given to high schools students have these options?

Another important thing to consider is that many students with accommodations pertaining to test-taking will have it written into their Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP is an important “contract” between the student and the school district that is suppose to insure that the student is receiving special education services such as (you guessed it) accommodations and/or modifications.

This also brings to mind that there are civil rights laws that focus on people with disabilities. American with Disability ACT (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Individual with Disability Education Act (IDEA) are meant to protect the person with disability from discrimination in the public and private sector, and to ensure that they are given equal, free, and reasonable access to the same education as their non-disabled peers. These ordinances also ensure due process of law, meaning that the creator of SAT must accommodate or face a possible lawsuit (if it hasn’t happened already)

Students with the processing disorders or ADD may have the same intellectual capacity as their non-disabled peers. However, they don’t have the ability to process that ability quickly. Most standardized tests and public school policies have recognized this, with or without the threat of violating federal civil rights laws. Giving students with disabilities extra time on the SAT is a minor accommodation that is fair and reasonable to give.