NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Buying Time On The S.A.T.

September 27, 2002

Recently the College Board decided to remove the asterisk flagging the scores of disabled students who take the Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT) under various special conditions. The asterisk indicating that extended time and other accommodations were made to the test-takers will disappear from student records including tests taken previously.

That means:

  • Each year two percent of high school seniors (roughly 30,000 students) will submit scores to colleges as if they had tested under the same conditions as everyone else.
  • This is part of the settlement of a 1999 lawsuit by disability rights groups who see extended-time testing (and unflagging) as a way to level the playing field for those with learning disorders.
  • Others worry that the unflagging of scores will invite abuse among some well-to-do families who have already been "diagnosis-shopping" to have their children designated learning disabled.

Critics point out it's part of our culture that every point matters, so students and their parents are looking for any kind of edge, including time and a half or double time on the stressful three-hour exam. They claim this cheapens the claims of the truly disabled while widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The ability of rich families to essentially buy the right to extended time on the College Boards adds to the many criticisms of the SAT exam. Detractors say the test is a proxy for affluence, not intelligence. Scores are polluted by advantages such as private tutoring and are therefore not meaningful measures.

Source: Jane Gross, "Paying for a Disability Diagnosis to Gain Time on College Boards," New York Times, September 26, 2002.


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