Extra Time

Extra time. “Alright times up! Go ahead and put your pencils down. Please close your test and answer booklets.

I will come around to collect them shortly.” These are the last words you hear before the end of the SAT exam. For most students, this moment is one of relief. They finally finished a six hour test! For a specific group of people, this moment is shameful and disappointing. These people are children with learning disabilities such as ADHD who did not receive testing accommodations for the SAT exam. It is unfair to be examined under the same circumstances as kids without any mental health conditions while having the major disadvantage of a thirty second attention span.

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The College Board has acknowledged this conflict, and have an application process in order to get specific testing accommodations. These include conveniences like extended time, more frequent breaks, decreased limitations on movement while testing, and choice seating. The issue with the application is that few people even know it’s available, and once people learn about it, it is either too late for them to start the process, or they decide it’s not worth the effort to complete it. Due to the difficulty of the application process, a large number of kids every year aren’t receiving the benefits they should in order to give them a better chance on an SAT exam. The College Board should make it easier for kids with learning disabilities to acquire testing accommodations for the SAT exam.

To clarify, ADHD is a learning/behavior disorder known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a behavioral disorder most commonly diagnosed in children that can potentially affect them throughout adulthood. It primarily causes children to have a difficult time focusing. ADHD has three subtypes: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-compulsive. There are also cases of combined inattentive and hyperactive-compulsive. For the purpose of argument, the predominant-inattentive subtype will be discussed because it’s symptoms are most relative to the difficulty with test taking.

Some signs and symptoms of ADHD include: being easily distracted, has difficulty focusing on one thing for long periods of time, struggles with organization, trouble completing assignments and tests on time, struggles processing information quickly, and problems following instructions. [2] All of these symptoms when in effect put SAT test takers with ADHD at a disadvantage when taking a tremendously important exam such as the SAT, especially when the results can be disastrous for your future. The SAT exam is a national standard for acceptance to the majority of colleges in the United States, and was created by an organization called The College Board. Formed in the year 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board, or CEEB, a non-profit organization, holds memberships from over 6,000 educational institutions. They administer college entrance exams such as the SAT,itssubject tests, and the PSAT. A poor performance on this test could spell trouble for young aspiring scholars with ambitions to attend prestigious academic institutions.

For an adolescent struggling with ADHD, the odds of an above average score are not in their favor. The College Board is also the group of people who review applications for the wide variety of testing accommodations. However, the application process is far too difficult and tedious due to the extensive list of materials needed to complete it. According to Derek Nekoba, a Counselor at Beaverton High School, “The preliminary Information required is specific information of the student’s disability, the diagnosis and the authentication of the health professional who made the diagnosis, the documentation of the diagnosis, and the specific accommodations being requested.” [3] It is also recommended that you include a history of documentation of student difficulty in the class room.

Acquiring the materials on this list is extremely difficult due to how many separate parties you have to request materials from. The application process also requires getting records from previous schools, pediatricians, and psychiatrists, which can take an extensive range of time. In my personal experience, it took three months to gather all the materials needed when I was applying. When I turned it into my counselor, he told me that this would grant me accomodations for high school testing, not the SAT. That was when I learned about the 504 plan, which is essentially the official document that confirms the schools acknowledgement of a student’s disability.

Before a student is allowed to apply for an accommodation on the SAT, they must obtain a 504 plan from their high school, and have used it for at least four months. They also have to show their dependence on it to maintain academic success. [1] Just getting to this point in the process is difficult enough. After already showing your documented history of adversity with ADHD, your official diagnosis, your pediatrician and/or psychiatrist’s PhD, and proving that even with the help of a 504 plan you are still struggling, you think that would convince The College Board that you need the extra test time right? Not necessarily. You become eligible to apply, however it is not an official guarantee.

The College Board in the past accepted applications that featured 504 plans from their high school. This means The College Board was trusting the high school’s judgement when approving or denying applications. [1] Due to the change in procedure, the process has become much more difficult and decreased the popularity of applying for accommodations. Some people might argue that extra time is not needed, regardless of a child’s circumstances. Some argue that accommodations are not needed to perform adequately on the SAT, or that they don’t affect scores. If this were the case, why would accomodations exist at all? Why would The college Board provide the option of applying for extended time if it was true that under no circumstances would it ever be needed to perform adequately? The truth is that there are special cases where people do need a little help just to meet the standard.

Accommodations exist to put everyone on the same level, and provide equal opportunities for success. The College Board has acknowledged that accommodated test takers diagnosed with a learning/processing disorder average higher scores than those diagnosed with a disorder who test without an accommodation. This is apparent based on The College Board’s procedural changes to the application process in 2004. [1] In 1988, 0.6% of people taking the SAT test had some kind of accommodation. Every year after that, the percentage increased subtly until finally in the year 2004 it reached an all time high of 2.

3%. That year also had 55,000 applicants, the highest in SAT history. Worried that too many people who didn’t really need help were being accommodated, The College Board decided to make the application process more thorough.[1] They stopped relying on high school 504 plans and instead began to rely on a different set of criteria, which is detailed in this passage from an article by James Applerouth, a nationally certified counselor with a PhD in Educational Psychology. “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 his 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.” [1] “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.” [1] With this the percentage of kids accommodated in 2005 dropped to 1.5 percent, denying tens of thousands of kids the equal opportunity to succeed that they applied for. In 2004 we saw The College Board’s acknowledgement of the power of accommodation. Based on their actions we can confirm their awareness of the effect accommodation can have on scores. This proves that there is a need for accommodations, and that they are useful to specific groups of people that are identified by The College Board through their application process.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who really do need the help are still not being identified. In conclusion, The College Board should make it easier for people with learning disabilities to get accommodations for the SAT exam. The application process has become far too difficult, and there’s no guarantee of success. The College Board has acknowledged the difference that accommodations can make for a test taker, and made the process far too long and tedious in order to prevent too many people from getting extra test time they don’t need. I see it as an over reaction, and an over correction. The College Board should be accepting more applications than they are denying, not the alternative.

Kids take the SAT because hey want to go to college, and if that opportunity is deprived of them because of their score on a test they weren’t able to finish on time, then what does The College Board really stand for? Those kids have to take the SAT if they want to go most schools anyway. As a kid diagnosed with ADHD whose never completed a timed section of a standardized test in his life. We really do need the extra time. Bibliography