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College & Workforce Readiness

ACT Stops ‘Flagging’ Scores of Students with Disabilities

By Catherine Gewertz — October 04, 2018 1 min read
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ACT has stopped telling colleges whether students who took the admissions exam have disabilities, a practice that sparked a lawsuit last summer.

As part of that lawsuit, the Iowa-based test maker submitted documents in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles saying that as of Sept. 15, it has stopped “flagging” the scores of students with disabilities.

ACT spokesman Ed Colby said that in 2003, the company stopped telling colleges in score reports that students had taken the test with accommodations.

But there was a second form of flagging that students challenged in an August lawsuit against ACT. It was based on information that students voluntarily provide in the “student profile” survey that’s part of the registration process. One of those questions asks if students have a physical or learning disability.

ACT had continued to send that information to colleges, but will no longer do so, Colby said. The change took effect Sept. 15, but the decision was made “weeks prior to that,” he said.

The move means that ACT is no longer including any information about students’ disabilities on college score reports, Colby said. The College Board used to “flag” the scores of students with disabilities too, but stopped more than a decade ago in the face of criticism.

In their lawsuit against ACT, the students claimed they were stigmatized as they applied to college because admissions officers saw that they have disabilities.

They sought an injunction barring ACT from continuing to disclose that information to colleges, but in a hearing on Sept. 27, U.S. District Judge George H. Wu declined that request, based on ACT’s representation that it had stopped sharing students’ disability status.

The lawsuit is not over, because the students and their families are still asking the court for damages for their experience, and to certify the case as a class action, representing all students who have been affected by ACT’s prior disclosures.

The ACT believes that information about students’ disabilities is valuable to colleges because it can support their learning, Colby said. It believes that sharing the information was “nondiscriminatory and lawful,” but decided to stop out of “respect for student privacy,” he said.

The company will continue to defend itself against the lawsuit “vigorously,” Colby said.

See related story:

Feds Eye Disparities in Supports for ACT, SAT

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