OPINION: Is it time to ditch “extra time” on tests?

From Issue 5

As most Jackson Prep students know, extra time and other accommodations on the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests have become very prominent. It seems as though everyone has extra time now a days. So why is this? Based on a study conducted by the College Board in 2005, extra time provides no advantage to low-ability students. However, medium- and high-ability students showed a significant increase in scores when given extra time. Because of this, many non-disabled, medium- to high-ability students are finding ways to get extra time.

Based on the statistics put forth by the College Board, 85% of the 160,000 requests for extra time in 2015-16 were approved. This is double the amount that was requested in the 2010-11 year. One reason for this increase could be due to the fact that more and more students seem to be getting diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, which could be because the increased awareness of the disorder, but that is not always the case. According to NeuroPlus, many students are actually able to fake having ADD and ADHD in order to get a diagnosis. A study conducted by NeuroPlus determined that neither self-report tests nor neuropsychological tests could tell the difference between students with ADHD and those faking it. Because of this, many students who do not need extra time are receiving it.

This raises the question of whether or not extra time is fair. Because the College Board stopped flagging the results of students who have extra time in 2003, colleges are now not aware of which students have extra time, which means if two students both make the same score, one with extra time and one without, the college would never know which of the two had special accommodations and which didn’t. According to Sophie Katz of NeuroPLus, “Unfortunately, in these highly competitive high school environments where the pressure to succeed on tests and attend a prestigious college is extraordinary, people are resorting to unfair measures to give themselves (or their children) the best shot. It’s to the point where many students who do not have extended time feel disadvantaged.” Personally, I do not believe it is fair for a person who gets extra time to have the same edge when applying to college as someone who does not have extra time. Even if both students have the same academic level, the student with extra time has an advantage over the student that does not.

So based on all of that, can the ACT and SAT, as well as other standardized tests, really consider themselves “standardized”? Personally, I believe if all students aren’t given the same amount of time to take it, regardless of the reason, then it can’t be considered “standardized.” If time really isn’t as important as it as made out to be, then standardized tests should remove time restrictions and just allow students to take the test. I agree with author Miriam Kurtzig Freedman when she says, “ To level the playing field and maintain validity, the it [The College Board] should end the pretense that the SAT is timed, throw away the clocks, hire more proctors, and give all students as much time as they want or need.”  This would even the playing field and give each student the same chance to succeed.