Too little is being done to ensure that students with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations on the SAT, ACT and other standardized tests, according to a new government report.
Despite requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act that students with disabilities receive accommodations like extra time or altered test formats, the report from the Government Accountability Office found that those with disabilities often face significant barriers.
Students complained that testing companies asked for too much documentation to prove their special needs and many were frustrated because they were denied supports that they were used to receiving at school.
For their part, testing companies told GAO investigators that they struggle to ensure that tests remain fair for all students while providing appropriate accommodations for those with legitimate needs.
About 2 percent of test takers received accommodations based on diagnoses ranging from autism to learning disabilities, GAO found. Meanwhile, a much larger proportion of Americans — about 12 percent — are estimated to have disabilities.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice — which is responsible for enforcing ADA compliance in testing situations — considers complaints on an individual basis, an approach that the government report found to be inadequate.
“Without a systematic approach to reviewing complaints that it receives, Justice cannot assure that all complaints are consistently considered and that it is effectively targeting its limited resources to the highest priority enforcement activities,” the report indicated.
The GAO report, which was commissioned by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., was released publicly in late December. Now, the lawmakers are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to take action.
“The current system of applying for and obtaining testing accommodations — and seemingly haphazard enforcement — are barriers to students with disabilities,” wrote Miller and Stark in a letter to Holder. “These barriers cause unnecessary delays to their careers and impose additional financial burdens on students who have already struggled and overcome challenges to reach this point.”