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?

About Miriam

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, JD, MA—an expert in public education, focused on special education law— is a lawyer, author, speaker, consultant, and reformer. For more than 35 years, Miriam worked with educators, parents, policy makers, and citizens to translate complex legalese into plain English and focus on good practices for children. Now, she focuses her passion on reforming special education, with her new book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law. Presentations include those at the AASA Conference, Orange County (CA), Boston College (MA), CADRE (OR), and the Fordham Institute (DC). Her writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Education Week, Education Next, Hoover Digest, The University of Chicago Law Review on line,, and The Atlantic Monthly on line.

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