Some recent numbers show the increase in students receiving special accommodations for SAT and ACT testing.
During the 2010-11 school year, 5 percent of all test takers were provided with some feature that was intended to adapt the test to their needs, ACT spokesman Ed Colby said, compared with 3.5 percent of test takers in the 2007-08 school year.
The numbers of requests have been rising among SAT takers, too, along with an increase in test takers overall. Once students are approved for an accommodation, they don’t have to reapply. Of new requests—almost 80,000 during the 2010-11 school year, compared with 10,000 fewer five years earlier—about 85 percent are approved, said Kathleen Steinberg, the spokeswoman for the College Board. The ACT said roughly 90 percent of requests made are granted.
Controversy has swirled for years about which students deserve special help. A 2000 California audit concluded that those getting college entrance testing accommodations “were disproportionately white, or were more likely to come from an affluent family or to attend a private school.”
More than a decade later, the Tribune’s review of data obtained under open records laws indicates that’s true in Illinois, where the percentage of test takers with accommodations doubled the national average.
Schools in wealthy enclaves with predominantly white students were at the top of the list when it comes to students getting ACT testing accommodations in Illinois, the 2011 data show.
A recent report from the General Accountability Office found that testing for qualifying disabilities “can cost from $500 to $9,000”. Wealthy families can afford to pay these costs when the schools will not. They also tend to have the expertise and money to force schools to pay for legally required testing.
One local affluent school district recently had a long list of applications for accommodations that was waiting to be submitted, probably typical for high-income locales.
The most commonly requested accommodation is extended time, but some others include “a quiet testing room, a reader or a scribe, enlarged print test booklets and/or answer keys, the use of a computer, additional or extended breaks, and multiple-day testing on the ACT”