Here we go again. The saga that never ends. That is, SAT and ACT accommodations saga. It’s been wrong from day one and the reverberations just keep on coming. See recent stories about the overuse of these accommodations….

Back in 2003 I wrote (“Disabling the SAT”) about the fact that these testing giants, the SAT and ACT, had just agreed to stop “flagging” test scores when the tests had been taken under nonstandard conditions. The SAT reached a settlement of a potential lawsuit that never happened. And the ACT followed shortly thereafter.

The policy has gone off the rails many times since then, and here’s another aspect of it.

I’m writing because this story and the ACT’s actions reported-like so many others–gets it wrong. This story (and apparently what the ACT did, according to this report), focuses on the students and their disabilities, not on the test. The ACT is accused of sending students’ “disability information” to colleges.

Back to basics. The flag was NEVER about the student or the disabiity. It was ALWAYS about the test. The flag was a notification to whomever (colleges, high schools, students, parents) that a test had been administered under nonstandard conditions. Often, with extended time. Period. That was the flag’s job.

As I see it, while the ACT could have (but for its agreement) notified colleges that a test score was achieved under nonstandard conditions, it CANNOT notify the colleges about the student (e.g., that he/she is disabled). Apparently the ACT did that–according to this story.

This flagging/not flagging story will just not go away. It is wrong on so many levels and has been wrong from the get go. At the time of that agreement, these testing companies did and continue to time these tests. In a lawsuit, they could have and should have provided the reasons for timing these tests and why timing is a fundamental part of the standardization. Had they done so persuasively, they could have continued to flag test results that were achieved under nonstandard conditions, such as extended time.

But, for whatever reason, as detailed in my 2003 story, the SAT chose NOT to defend its practice and standardization requirements (and the ACT followed shortly thereafter). They both stopped flagging test reports.

Bottom line: My focus has always been on ensuring test validity; that the test actually measures what it purports to measure. That is, a timed test measures what a student knows and can do within a standard amount of time. It’s all about the test–not the student. According to this story, it seems that the ACT revealed information about the students and their disabilities. This is wrong.

This flagging/non flagging story has been a downhill story for about 15 years already. When and where will it end?

Thank you, Luke Egan for bringing this issue to the fore– again–and thank you, a loyal reader of my work, for bringing it to my attention.

The opening paragraph is terrific, as it raises the issue by students for students.

“The most polarizing issue in my high school’s community didn’t relate to religion or politics. It was the issue of extra time. Extra time, which is often given for in-class assignment and standardized tests, typically offers students who qualify 1.5 to double the amount of time to complete an assessment as peers who don’t qualify. While extra time may be given for a host of reasons, it is usually given when a student is diagnosed with a processing difference such as ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyslexia. The problem, however, is when families take advantage of this accommodation for students who don’t actually need it.”

Read on! I’m glad to see a student raising this issue. Apparently it’s been a hot one at his posh private school. As well it should be. At his school, 18% of students had extended time! He cites other private schools where that percentage is up to 46%. Really? What are we doing? Whatever happened to the standardized SAT?

My loyal readers will know that, as unfair and outrageous as these percentages are, I have not focused on that issue. My concern with these extended time allowances THAT NO ONE IS NOTIFIED ABOUT has always focused on the test, not the student. Or as I write, the WHAT before the WHO.

Giving extended time (without providing any notice of this fact to colleges, parents, schools) means that these tests are NO LONGER STANDARDIZED. It’s time to finally be honest about that! And since that’s the case, why are we still using these tests (SAT and ACT) and paying so much for them? Why?

A standardized test is one that is given to all students under standard conditions. Whither that basic fundamental requirement?

Read on. Let’s hope we hear from more students, parents, and teachers.