Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Recently someone and I had an exchange about the notion of extra time as an accommodation for standardized tests such as the SAT. He brought up some good questions. Here’s one of them and my reply:
Him: “Let’s talk about SAT tests. The fact that a neurotypical student benefits from extra time seems to indicate that the test is, in fact, sensitive to processing speed.. We’ll ignore for the moment the test’s predictive power vis-a-vis academic success (despite the fact that this is what the test is supposedly designed for!) and just ask whether we believe processing speed is a “scholastic aptitude.”
If it is not a scholastic aptitude, then my argument is that the SAT ought not be designed to reward it.
If, on the other hand, we assume that processing speed IS a scholastic aptitude, then we face a new set of questions, such as:
Is time-to-completion a reasonable, fair measure of competence?
How much processing speed should instructors be allowed to assume when designing assignments and tests?
Is processing speed the most significant scholastic aptitude? And if not, is its effect on SAT scores proportionate, or outsized?
And why, if processing speed is salient, is it wrong to take into account the fact that a student needed extra time to complete an assignment or test? Consider that a University’s capacity to provide extra supports may be precious and limited.”
Here are my thoughts on some of your excellent questions and points:
You mention: “Let’s talk about SAT tests. The fact that a neurotypical student benefits from extra time seems to indicate that the test is, in fact, sensitive to processing speed.. …and just ask whether we believe processing speed is a “scholastic aptitude.”
If it is not a scholastic aptitude, then my argument is that the SAT ought not be designed to reward it.”
My thoughts: Processing speed is a neurological/cognitive performance marker AND is also an over emphasized academic skill. The fact that it may be both; that some people’s learning disability includes “slow processing speed” or as Dr. Martha Denckla terms it “slow production speed,” should help us see that leveling the playing field to accommodate this is a good and just thing. Certainly the courts have see this to be true. When you have a student who comprehends what they read and hear at a high level, but who processes print at a slow speed (classic bright dyslexic), then the accommodation of extra time to read and/or write makes perfect sense. While extra time may benefit anyone, the level of benefit is markedly different. Having a ramp benefits everyone but makes a world of difference to someone in a wheelchair, or simply one with a sprained ankle. That’s where the concept of universal design comes in. Perhaps the way to go is give everyone the time they need to complete the SAT or the like.