Guest Opinion: Close extra-time loophole on 'standardized' SAT/ACT tests | News | Palo Alto Online |


Guest Opinion: Close extra-time loophole on 'standardized' SAT/ACT tests


With all the news and hand-wringing about the college-applications scandal, residents of Silicon Valley — an epicenter — may be scratching their heads about part of the story that has been overlooked but was in plain sight. I refer to the practice of granting some students "extra time" on the SAT or ACT while not signaling this extension to the colleges and universities to which they apply. Putting aside the criminal aspect of the current scandal, readers may wonder how a doctor's letter diagnosing a disability, as has been widely reported, or a history of extra time in school can end up getting a student 50% or 100% more time than fellow test takers — while keeping that fact confidential. This lack of notice is the loophole discussed here — not the extra time itself.

As I see it, with undocumented extra time, these "timed" tests are no longer standardized. Yet, due to current policy of the College Board (the part of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) that administers the SAT) and the ACT, a separate entity, nobody is notified of that reality. It's like having a larger font on an eye exam — but calling it the same exam, or getting more time to run the "4-minute mile"!

Miriam Freedman.
Let me be very clear. I am all for giving extra time to a student who needs it in order to demonstrate what he or she knows or can do. That is not the concern. The concern is the lack of notice, especially to college admissions officers who have to evaluate students without knowing what test scores mean. How did this happen?

The story begins in 1999, when a student with a disability sued the ETS for "flagging" his test scores because he had been granted extra time. Through Disability Rights Advocates, which represented him, he argued that a "flag" was unlawfully discriminatory.

For unexplained reasons, the ETS settled the case in 2002 and agreed that after 2003, it would no longer "flag" test results taken with extended time — a move opposed by 79% of college admissions officers at the time. The ACT followed suit. As an attorney who has practiced public education law for many years, I expressed my view that "flagging" was not unlawfully discriminatory and the ETS and ACT decisions eviscerated the very meaning of a "standardized" test. (See

The 2003 "extended time" loophole opened the floodgates, especially in upscale communities such as those in Silicon Valley. While at the time 2% of test takers were granted extra time, the percentages have more than doubled to 4-5%. More troubling, the use of this so-called "accommodation" varies widely by ZIP code — from very few in poor communities to, reportedly, 20-40% of test takers in some upscale communities and private schools. Where is equity, fairness and transparency?

The totally predictable pickle we are in, as exposed by the recent scandal, will undoubtedly continue to grow until stopped. As I see it, the end of "flagging" was neither fair nor wise, especially as other tests (with some exceptions) have followed suit. Ask yourself: Who benefits from results with compromised validity?

What to do? Don't blame parents or students for using this attractive loophole on the SAT and the ACT. Blame its creators, the College Board and the ACT. Like tort law's "attractive nuisance" doctrine, those who create a nuisance on their property are responsible for injuries it causes — not the children who come to play there. So, too, here.

As a school attorney, I know that this loophole has also challenged and confused good teachers in providing honest achievement reports that indicate when standards are modified. Some will ask, "Why should I do this when the SAT doesn't?"

I believe it's time for a redo by the big players — the College Board's SAT and the ACT. They have many options, including these three below, to lead the way out of the current quandary.

First, they can provide evidence for why they time their tests; e.g., that, among other skills or knowledge, the tests are designed to measure processing speed, efficiency, and/or other valid time-related indicators — and reinstate flagging. It is legal and not unlawful discrimination to have timed tests and to notify test users (colleges, etc.) when tests are given under nonstandard conditions.

Second, they can give all students (not only students with disabilities) the choice to have extra time, knowing that their results will be flagged. Some students may opt for this. It's a fair and valid option that has the advantage of obviating the need for a disability diagnosis.

Third, they can stop timing test takers. Since some students can have more time, it's fair to ask if timing really matters. Whether a student takes a test under standard conditions or with extra time, the tests are treated as if they are the same! Given all of this, stop the anxiety, gamesmanship and perverse incentives that the current policy invites.

Instantly, each of these three options would solve the problem addressed above. I recommend either of the first two options. Since I believe that timing matters and is worth measuring, I can't endorse the third option — the seemingly simple solution.

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, a local resident and expert in public-education law, is a school attorney and author of seven books, including her latest, "Special Education 2.0," and many articles. She can be reached at

Related content:

• Listen to the March 15 episode of "Behind the Headlines," where Palo Alto college adviser John Raftrey discusses the implications of the nationwide admissions bribery scandal, now available on our YouTube channel and podcast.

Pressure over college admissions 'out of control'

Opinion: Making the college-admissions system more equitable

Opinion: Lessons parents should learn from the college-admissions scandal

$75K for a fake ACT score? Students say cheating happens without the big bucks


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20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2019 at 10:51 am

Resident is a registered user.

My son has lower processing speed and does have the accommodations that give him extra time. If he knew it would be flagged, he would refuse to use the extra time, out of fear of being assumed to be “special ed” or “disabled” in any way, or if having ALL his grades and hard work thrown into question. I agree with the policy of not flagging it. It’s too easy to make incorrect assumptions about what that means for the applicant.

I could agree with not timing the test. But flagging it isn’t a solution I would support.

31 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2019 at 12:15 pm

@ Miriam Freedman,
While I appreciate your thoughts, your essay exemplifies why this scandal is so damaging to people who actually need the accommodations. The mistaken assumptions people make about extra time are going to make getting necessary accommodations even harder, especially for students who already experienced the injustice and damage of late identification or failure of their districts to accommodate their learning disabilities (which is more than the number of students whose LD’s get identified early and accommodated).

Your proposal regarding flagging extra time would do more harm than it would do good, and it’s misguided. When people with disabilities are accommodated with extra time, they do better. When people who don’t need the accommodations receive them, they generally don’t do better than they would have otherwise.

Unless the test is designed to make timing matter, which is not really fair when there is no differentiation between timing and knowledge/reasoning in interpretation. It’s also pretty unfair when timing performance has more to do with executive functioning — the frontal cortex of students, especially boys, are still maturing when they take those tests. 2e students who may be exceptionally gifted, often have asynchronous traits including slower processing speed at that age — which is not necessary permanent, related to development. (One has only to look at our district to see how abysmally things can be stacked against 2e students.) Making timing an aspect of the result, especially when the result then is only interpreted as an indicator of the student’s knowledge and reasoning, is just more artificially disadvantaging students who have been given short-shrift by the system and advantage some students for arbitrary factors such as whether their parents redshirted them as kindergarteners to give them a leg up on everyone else.

The problem with the scandal cases is that the students got extra time AND there was someone there correcting their tests. Just getting extra time would not turn a 50th percentile student into a 99th percentile student or even a 65th percentile student, unless the person needed it, in which case, we should not begrudge anyone that (if that was all). You suggestion that timing matters would make sense in a perfect world in which all students with learning differences and disabilities got the accommodations they needed, but they don’t, and there is a spectrum.

Many students with learning disabilities also don’t want colleges to know about their disabilities until they are admitted, if at all. That is their right. Your proposal is a sledgehammer approach to mosquito swatting and wouldn’t stop cheating but it would broadly violate the rights of everyone with learning disabilities. When I was a young engineer, my boss walked into my office with the resume of a prospective hire he wanted to speak with me about. He stopped, noticing a gap in the woman’s work history. He thought for a moment and said, “I’ll bet that’s a disability leave,” threw the resume in the trash and walked out. Most of the time, you never hear people say that out loud.

Another problem with your suggestion is that you are assuming people of higher SES are getting an undue advantage, rather than that our system seriously needs to do a better job catching and helping all students with learning disabilities. Our district is an extreme example, where only parents who can afford to pay for special advocates and lawyers (or get on the board) can get what their children need — I know more students than I can count on both hands who have been drummed out of the district because of proactively toxic behavior toward such families because the district doesn’t want special needs students. Nationally, way less than half of students with the most common LD’s ever get an appropriate identification and support.

I do think the College Board should probably take stock of and make moot the most common requests for accommodations, for example, time, and just make the test longer for everyone. One of the major LD’s, dysgraphia, just requires allowing students to use scrap paper with graph lines. That’s not going to advantage anyone else, but it makes all the difference for kids who need it. The test should be:
Is the accommodation easy to provide?
Will the accommodation help students who need it without advantaging students who don’t?
Can we change things as needed to ensure the accommodation is not taken advantage of in other ways?

If you think timing matters, perhaps you should suggest students who wish it could take a different test that is timed, for colleges that care.

12 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Prior to knowing my son was dyslexic (general term for reading issues) we went to S.F. to see a reading comprehension specialist for my son. It was 5 hours of testing. We submitted this info to Paly and they said his issue was not "bad enough" to require an IEP (special accommodations). My son had comprehension issues but still earned As and Bs in school. However, that documentation did allow him time and a half on the SAT test. Since he did have issues reading, this was helpful, because he was a slow reader due to the dyslexia. However, that old SAT Verbal was just insane anyway, so his Verbal score was not high by Palo Alto standards. He ended up attending a test-optional college, then transferring and graduating from a Top 50 college.

My question is this: Why is extra time allowed? Sure, it's unfair, but life is unfair. Can a person be a professional athlete if he is not coordinated? Can a female walk the catwalk if she is 5'7"? Can a person be a pilot if they are blind? You get my drift. If a person has a learning disability, it's part of life. Why should they be allowed to attend an elite college if they are not up to par on their academic skills (and got a high test score due to extra time)?

Info to help others with reading issues: My son was dyslexic, inherited it from me. However, we really never knew why we didn't like reading. Not like letters were mixed or floating on the pages. It wasn't until his senior year that a friend told me that her daughter didn't like reading either but went to vision therapy and fixed it, started reading books all the time. Our eyes had trouble tracking from line to line; using computer exercises trains the eye muscles (follow the floating dot, etc). Teachers and optometrists don't know about vision therapy, as it is new in the last decade. Most think just to get the vision checked. The top vision therapist in the nation recommended Carol. Her San Carlos business specializes in visual therapy: Web Link Vision therapy is expensive but if you are on the computer a lot (8 hours+) the eyes will gradually be fixed on its own (this happened to me at age 45 when I got hooked on the internet). There might be a way to just purchase the computer program these days instead of paying more and going to office visits.

19 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2019 at 2:18 pm

"My question is this: Why is extra time allowed? Sure, it's unfair, but life is unfair. Can a person be a professional athlete if he is not coordinated? Can a female walk the catwalk if she is 5'7"? Can a person be a pilot if they are blind? You get my drift. If a person has a learning disability, it's part of life. Why should they be allowed to attend an elite college if they are not up to par on their academic skills (and got a high test score due to extra time)? "

You are making the wrong analogies. The question is more: Can a person who needs glasses be a target shooter in the olympics? Can a person with cerebral palsy who can't use their hands be a writer? Can a person who needs a wheelchair be allowed to do ____. What if we just said, life is unfair?

The point is that needing glasses shouldn't cause us to assume the person can never see, or cause us to assume that allowing them to have glasses is unfair. Not being able to use a pen for writing shouldn't cause us to assume the person can never write intelligently, or that allowing them to use an adaptive device is unfair.

That is the equivalent circumstance. If you give someone who doesn't need them glasses, it won't help them, and if you give someone who needs them glasses, it's going to level the playing field, it's not going to give them super powers.

A student with dysgraphia who can't write an essay on an AP because they aren't allowed to organize their thoughts in the margins of the test booklet but could if they had scrap paper will be fine in an elite school, because they can either work in the way they need or they can get accommodations. That's the whole point of having laws, because people think ignorant things like "life is just unfair, the disabled should just suck it up instead of expecting accommodations". When people say that, it smacks of wanting to keep an undue advantage by denying others who might beat them the glasses they need to level the playing field. Ignorant and forceful opinions like "why should a person with learning disabilities be allowed to attend elite schools" are why we have to have laws.

In case you hadn't noticed, the kids in the cheating scandal who got extra time also had to get someone to fix their answers for them. The extra time does not turn a child who gets a 500 into a child who gets a 1500, although, if it does, they needed the accommodation for an undiagnosed learning disability. Your attitude is really out of line, and is the ugliest kind of justification for continuing to use arbitrary and limited constructs (that often don't even apply when students get out of school) to destroy opportunities for students who are VERY bright but need specific accommodations. Should we start taking away the glasses from students who need them to take their tests because it isn't fair for them to see since life is unfair?

18 people like this
Posted by Mary Ellen Lemieux, JD, LCSW
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Yikes! Miriam Kurtzig Freedman's guest opinion demonstrates everything that is misunderstood about learning differences and standardized testing. Suggesting that extended time is an unfair advantage to individuals diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability or other disabilities identified under the IDEA--Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act--demonstrates a fundamental lack of knowledge around the various learning differences, how they impact children and teens in the school setting, and how they are measured and identified by licensed doctorate level psychologists.

Reasonable accommodations, such as extended time, are intended to level the playing field for students with identified SLD's, not give them an unfair advantage or boost. Unfortunately, the writer's opinion appears to reflect the view that the educational playing field has always been level, and in fact, may be tilted in disfavor to students without SLD's. Not surprising, as any parent who has come out of a 504 or IEP meeting empty-handed knows. this view is often reflected by public school administrators, faculty and special education personnel.

To be clear for anyone thinking of joining on the writer's bandwagon. the academic playing field for students with LD's is not and has never been even remotely level for these students. As any parents of a child with LD's will tell you, school is infinitely more difficult and discouraging for these student and their families. Homework is never a breeze, as the amount of effort to do "simple" tasks can be exhausting. Criticism and "lack of effort" comments are abundant. Refusing or docking points for late work is an accepted industry standard, intending to punish, rather than reward effort, in areas that do not come easy for these students.

The writer's point of view might be enlightened if she sought and attended a simulated classroom experience for parents of students with LD's. Most parents come away with significantly more compassion for their children after walking in their academic shoes for an hour.

12 people like this
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2019 at 2:34 pm

I agree with option 3, lengthen the standard test time so everyone can benefit without having to jump through hoops or game the system to get the special accommodation. To pretend that 'normal' students wouldn't do better with extra time is naive.

20 people like this
Posted by Au Contraire
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2019 at 2:58 pm

Students with learning disabilities should not be allowed to take the spots from other students, that’s how this whole fiasco started! Now, the wealthy are cheating so there are a whole bunch of unqualified students taking spots from qualified students. End the extra time loophole ASAP. Those with disabilities can go attend other colleges but they should not be taking highly coveted spots at top ranked colleges when others have to work within the time constraints.

9 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2019 at 5:16 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Two excellent books addressing these issues:

The Price of Admission - How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges-And Who Gets Left Outside The Gates, by Daniel Golden

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be - An Antidote To The College Admissions Mania, by Frank Bruni

16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2019 at 5:55 pm

Miriam Freedman’s opinion piece is just that - the opinion of a lawyer who displays a lack of insight into the underlying subject matter. First, flagging that a student received extended time is a breach of privacy regarding a medical matter that person may prefer to keep confidential because it would almost certainly lead directly to discrimination in admissions (the reason admissions officers want to know), which is probably why the College Board wisely settled that case the way it did. Second, extended time does not make the test non-standardized - to the contrary it levels the playing field so that scores are comparable. If scores of those who took the test with extended time were flagged, this would discourage students who need the time from requesting it, with the result that their scores, unlike those of others, would not accurately reflect their abilities and achievement, depriving them of equal educational opportunities (another good reason for settling that case). Third, research shows that speed is not related to intelligence, so there is no valid reason to have timed tests in this context. And finally, research also shows that providing accommodations such as extended time to those who don’t need it doesn’t help them, so the best “solution” would be the one she dismisses, i.e. to stop timing test takers. Ms. Freedman has a long history of hostility to the rights of students with disabilities, and it shows.

23 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2019 at 7:59 pm

" research shows that speed is not related to intelligence, so there is no valid reason to have timed tests in this context. And finally, research also shows that providing accommodations such as extended time to those who don’t need it doesn’t help them, so the best “solution” would be the one she dismisses, i.e. to stop timing test takers. "

Thank you.

Students with dysgraphia, one of the most common LD's, might struggle to write under testing time constraints where they may otherwise be writing at a graduate student level when they have the autonomy that adults have in real life. When they aren't in school but in the real world, what's important is that they can do the latter.

It feels a lot like people are using the cheating as a pretext to try to gain an unfair advantage over students with learning disabilities who already suffer in a contrived educational environment. This is too often the case in our society, insurance companies use cheaters as a pretext for harassing all the normal people who lose their homes or get sick, disaster scammers make those who would help be afraid to trust helping, etc. Probably the most damage this cheating scandal did was to those with disabilities who need accommodations, who will now face even more hurdles.

10 people like this
Posted by Chris G Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2019 at 2:54 am

Chris G Zaharias is a registered user.

FYI - the Feds are not even close to being finished. My bet is that another 30-50 PA/MP/LAH/PV/Ath/Woodside parents will be charged within the next 3-6 months.

11 people like this
Posted by Simple Solution
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2019 at 9:38 am

Make the test easier & then it negates the extra time allotment.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Apr 6, 2019 at 9:45 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

13 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2019 at 10:18 am

Isn't part of these exams to see how well the student performs within a limited period of time? Isn't the point to predict future academic performance? Unless these 4-5% of students is given extra time on all future exams too, this extra time just distorts the value of the standardized tests. What's standardized about them if 1/20th of the test takers are given 50-100% more time?

14 people like this
Posted by School District’s Lawyer
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2019 at 11:16 am

The writer is an attorney who represents public school districts against disabled children and families. Keep in mind she is not on the student’s side, Quite the opposite. She goes where there is big money (school districts) opposing disabled children. Taxes pay for this.

15 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:01 pm

“Isn’t part of these exams to see how well the student performs within a limited period of time?”

No, at least not according to the College Board’s own published guide to understanding SAT Scores:
Web Link
There’s nothing at all about testing how students perform certain tasks under timed constraints.

You are also looking at this in a way that prejudices the conversation against students with learning disabilities in a damaging and dismissive way.

If competitors are target shooting, part of what is being assessed is accurate vision, sure, but people who are nearsighted can wear glasses. The way you are framing this, it’s as if you think people wearing glasses is an unfair advantage. It’s not, and constantly accusing people who need the glasses of getting an unfair advantage (and telling them they don’t deserve to compete because they need glasses) is cruel and unnecessary, and an illegal kind of discrimination for a reason.

Again, the extra time for some students is necessary for the test to be fair to THEM given their learning disabilities. Giving them extra time will not give all of them an unfair advantage or perfect scores. The people accused in this cheating scandal didn’t just get extra time for their kids, because that alone wouldn’t have given them a leg up — families with that kind of money already have the lawyers to get special needs addressed. The cheating scandal involved getting the permission in order to get the child into a different testing center run by someone who was paid to cheat for them. If people like you attack the necessary accommodations for people with learning disabilities (which do transfer to college where reasonable), then that will be the biggest damage caused by the cheating scandal, and people who further the ignorant opinions about learning disabilities will be aiding and abetting.

Again, you wouldn’t take the glasses away from nearsighted people in a target-shooting contest. A reasonable accommodation levels the playing field and doesn’t give someone without the disability an undue advantage, as extra time or graph/scrap paper would not.

Given that so many students with learning disabilities are not diagnosed and that districts like ours unlawfully avoid proactively identifying them or even try to push families out, the College Board should probably answer this controversy by simply allowing all students to take more time.

9 people like this
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2019 at 3:15 pm

From the start, advocates for accommodations for extra time should have pressed to have that available to all students. As it stands, we now have a system that is easily gamed, and even in legitimate cases, once again benefits those who can afford diagnosis over those who can't, thus ratcheting up the disparity between classes in this county. Research shows that high performing and average performing 'normal' students do better with 1.5 time. It's impossible to take seriously anyone who claims that non-disabled students wouldn't benefit from extra time. Therefore, not making that time available to all students is inherently unfair. The playing field has not been leveled at all.

8 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2019 at 3:52 pm

"From the start, advocates for accommodations for extra time should have pressed to have that available to all students. "

Why do you assume that has not been the case? It's called Usable and Universal Design for Learning. Universal design is not the same as barrier-free design. It's design that takes away the need for those who are shut out for arbitrary reasons to have different accommodations.

Given that more students with disabilities are not even identified in school to get the help they need than those that do. and given that many accommodations are only necessary in the highly contrived learning environments of school, universal design seems the better answer to prevent any cheating or sense of unfairness.

7 people like this
Posted by Outmoded tests.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Outmoded tests. is a registered user.

It is evident that that writer is not learning disabled and has no children who are. Lucky her. It would be nice if she would trouble herself to think a little more about what life is like for people who do.

My ADHD daughter (who received time accommodations on the SAT and ACT after extensive diagnostic testing) recently graduated from a highly competitive college and has successfully launched into her career. One advantage of being learning disabled is you learn to work harder than everyone else because you have to.

Her happy new employer says he appreciates her work ethic. She's VERY bright and she learned kindness from those who were kind to her when she was young and learning how to live with her disability. She is a team player who is a talented leader and collaborator. She is a creative problem solver because her disability forced her to be so. Her disability does not affect her ability to be effective in her job at all. The SAT doesn't measure intelligence, or fortitude, or even what one knows. The kind of speed that is required on the SAT/ACT really does not matter in the real world.

These tests and the College Board are outdated, money-sucking institutions that require serious change. They were created to give opportunity to needy kids. Sadly, the College Board appears to have lost sight of its mission. (The desire to increase revenues often does that to organizations.)

If kids have to take the SAT/ACT, maybe ALL kids should be allowed to have as much time as they need. This would eliminate the need for any child to have to go through the expensive diagnostic process. It also would level the playing field for economically disadvantaged kids who cannot afford the thousands of dollars required to pay for diagnostic testing.

4 people like this
Posted by Mary Ellen Lemieux ,JD, LCSW
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2019 at 2:00 pm

Perhaps someone needs to start a petition calling for both the SAT and ACT being untimed.

10 people like this
Posted by I agree with the op-ed
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 9, 2019 at 10:18 pm

I agree with the op-ed is a registered user.

If I had a learning disabled kid, I would want them to have extra time, and I would be fine with having their test flagged as taking extra time. Everyone would already know from records that the kid is disabled and needs extra time, so what is wrong with that? Colleges will have seen many of these kids already, will know they are bright (or not) from grades and references and perhaps diagnosis, and will take all that into account. (And if they don't, he shouldn't go there anyway.)

Why not indicate whether or not extra time was given, and offer it to all students, to better support those who can't afford the diagnostics?

My kid is not disabled, but takes extra time anyway on the CAASPP test (the writing part) because he likes to do it "just so". Fine with me. If a college is going to prioritize speed and reject his application because he took extra time, probably not best for my kid anyway, at least as far as writing goes.

3 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 13, 2019 at 10:11 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

The level of discourse might improve hear the deck if more than three people would stand by name to their statements

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 13, 2019 at 10:13 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

The level of discourse might improve here if more than three people would stand by name attributed to their statements.

3 people like this
Posted by Michele
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 13, 2019 at 7:18 pm

so glad to read these responses. Thank you for speaking out
As a parent of a child with a LD, who has struggled since day 1 of Kindergarten , I find this opinion piece to be harmful and clearly based on the lack of knowledge and lack of understanding. Just because some affluent families have found a way to game the system does not mean that accommodations need to be taken away from those who really need it.
If everyone wants extended time without a disability, then lets take away the other loopholes that exist in the college admission process. How about not flagging legacies children who have so far enjoyed the back door admission to Harvard? How about don't even ask the question if you are an alumni so those kids do not get special treatment.
How about recruited athletes who get admitted with much lower credentials. Should we get rid of that?
How about those who can afford thousands of dollars in test prep, essay mentors and private college counseling? iIs that fair towards those students who don't have the money to prep for those tests?
Kids with disabilities have already been stigmatized in school and among their friends, so we should also " flag " them to the colleges ? Not only is that ludicrous, but it is in direct violation of the HiPPA laws. I wonder if the author would like to have her mental health record made public ?

6 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2019 at 9:59 pm


"Everyone would already know from records that the kid is disabled and needs extra time, so what is wrong with that? "

Actually, that's not true. Many kids who get accommodations throughout k-12 don't want colleges to know they have LD's or don't want them to know until after they are admitted in order to not be subjected to illegal bias. Some just get to the point that they just want to be treated the same even if it hurts their performance. Others find the experience of getting accommodations to be so negative in k-12, they don't think it's worth it and don't want to risk being discriminated against.

9 people like this
Posted by I agree with the op-ed
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 13, 2019 at 10:54 pm

I agree with the op-ed is a registered user.

"they don't want to risk being discriminated against"

I agree. No one wants to be discriminated against. So how would that impact my actions?

If my kid is disabled, then that's not going to change once he's in college. He's still going to be disabled in college. Right?

I don't want him to be discriminated against in college. I really, really don't -- I won't even be there to help. So don't I want to know if the school is going to discriminate before he gets in, rather than after?

I don't want him going to a school that discriminates against the disabled. So why try to hide it in the application? Aren't we all looking for the right fit? If the application process is discriminatory, do we honestly believe the school itself is going to be any better? And suing the school is hardly an answer -- what is that going to do to the kid's college experience?

2 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2019 at 10:06 pm


I take it you don't have any direct personal experience with this, but I'm glad you asked.

There is a big difference between discrimination that happens behind closed doors that keeps a qualified student out of a school, and getting into a school and then getting accommodations. When the student is applying, there is no way to know what someone is thinking or whether knowing about a learning disability could tip the acceptance in a process that is already almost a lottery. But students have legal rights, especially in public institutions, and once in the door, they not only have to be accommodated, there are usually offices with trained people to help those with disabilities be successful. I can guarantee you those people aren't a part of the acceptance process.

People with "invisible" disabilities of all kinds regularly have to decide when to try to "pass" and when it is necessary to be open about a disability. If someone has been accommodated for dysgraphia by being given scrap or graph paper on an exam, why should they be forced to reveal a disability to potential colleges? No regular students would get an advantage by being given graph paper to do their calculations. It makes a huge difference to the student with the LD, but it's like nothing to everyone else. Flagging the application of someone like that and singling them out for potentially unaddressable discrimination behind their backs during the admissions process is unnecessary, cruel, and probably illegal for a reason.

Appropriate accommodations level the playing field, like a nearsighted target shooter wearing eye glasses. If the accommodation is that simply, why should such an athlete be constantly forced to deal with accusations of being irretrievably inferior or getting an unfair advantage? But the fact that some people above still don't get this is why we have to have laws.

2 people like this
Posted by Mom of Dyslexic
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2019 at 9:11 pm

I came across this article which I found ridiculous! Let me tell you all something Miriam, extended time and frequent breaks does NOT make my sons dyslexia go away, and does not make his binocular vision problems go away! He is very bright, scores very high on cognitive testing (untimed of course) but takes him longer to process information. He bombs stardardized test, but is the top student in his Architecture class, can design like a professional in high school. BUT SAT will say he's not college ready according to low scores without accommodations. These organizations (including ACT) do not have the best interest of the students. They are in it to make money and are a monopoly. The solution is for Universities to stop asking for SAT/ACT scores. A lot are already doing so, and the trend is on the rise. Why are we testing students on a level we know they will struggle?? Miriam, ALL public high schools have psychologists on site ready to test for FREE! It is a right of poor and rich. It's a parents responsibility to be their childs advocate regardless of their income, or address.

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