U.S. Department of Justice Eyes Accommodations on SAT, ACT

By Catherine Gewertz — February 24, 2016 1 min read
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As more states choose to require all students to take the SAT or ACT, or use those college-entrance exams as their tests for federal accountability, new issues arise. One is a growing gulf between students with disabilities and those without. It’s something that has caught the interest of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a story published Wednesday, I report that the Justice Department’s civil rights division is soliciting information and anecdotes about students who can’t get the testing accommodations they’re used to when their states require them to take the SAT or ACT. In some states, students must make a painful decision: They can take the test without the accommodations they’ve been using, and risk a compromised score, or they can insist on their normal accommodations and sacrifice a key benefit that non-accommodated students receive: a score they can use in college admissions.

Read my story for an exploration of the dilemmas, and the possible legal issues, that arise when states require the SAT or ACT, but those companies won’t allow the same testing accommodations that students have been using in the classroom and on their own states’ tests.

In an earlier story, I wrote about other questions that arise when states choose to use the SAT or ACT for federal accountability. Among those questions: What do states want to measure in high school, and which test is appropriate for measuring it? Are states measuring what they value the most in high school?

All of these questions take on increasing significance as nearly half the states now require all students to take the ACT or SAT, and a dozen plan to use it for the accountability reports required by federal law.

Photo: Student Emily Anderson, foreground, was among those field-testing the Smarter Balanced exam in 2014 at the Blue Mountain Union School in Wells River, Vt. Some students are finding that the accommodations they’re used to getting on tests like this one aren’t always available for college admissions tests.—Caleb Kenna for Education Week-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.