ACT stops flagging untimed tests

The American College Test ended the flagging of test score reports for students who take the test without a time limit last Friday.

Formerly, students who have documented learning disabilities such as dyslexia or attention deficit disorder were allowed to have special accommodations during the test.

The ACT’s decision comes on the heels of one by the College Board to stop flagging test scores for students who take the SAT, SAT II Subject Tests and Advanced Placement exams untimed, according to Ken Gullette, director of media relations for the ACT.

The College Board decided to stop flagging scores after a blue-ribbon panel of testing and admissions professionals recommended that they do so.

The panel was formed in response to a 1999 lawsuit against the Educational Testing Service alleging that the flagging of these scores discriminated unfairly against disabled students, according to Jennifer Topiel, associate director of public affairs at the College Board.

Gullette said that the ACT had originally decided to flag these students’ scores in 1985 because there was no research indicating how test scores obtained under extra time compare to those obtained under standard time constraints.

While there is still no conclusive research showing how extra time affects learning disabled students’ scores, Gullette said that the ACT nonetheless felt compelled to follow the SAT’s lead. He pointed specifically to the need to “follow industry standards.”

He also spoke about how the decision fit with the ACT’s “philosophy of inclusion, not of exclusion.”

“We want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to go to college” without being held back by the lack of appropriate accommodations during standardized tests, he said.

Gullette was not concerned that students would try to take advantage of the new system to obtain better ACT scores.

He said that students will be required to show a diagnosis from qualified professionals that they have a particular disability and will need to demonstrate a history of special accommodations for that disability.

“Just because students will try for extra time doesn’t mean that they’ll get it,” he added.

About 1.8 million students take the ACT annually. Approximately 30,000 of them are currently granted extended time.

The ACT is based in Iowa and is most frequently used in the Midwest.

While many colleges, including Dartmouth, allow students to submit ACT scores in lieu of SATs, the ACT’s composition is slightly different.

The current SAT contains only verbal and quantitative sections, while the ACT features questions about math, English and science as well.

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