Faking it: using learning disabilities to boost sat scores – Education

Faking it: using learning disabilities to boost sat scores – Education – Brief Article

Christine Mullis

BEGINNING THIS FALL, UNIVERSITIES WILL NO longer be told which students were granted extra test-taking time on the SATs. Traditionally, learning-disabled students are given extra time, and their test results are flagged. In an era of competitive admissions and overdiagnosis of attention disorders, educators worry that high school students (and their parents) will exaggerate or falsify claims of attention-deficit disorder to gain a competitive edge on tests.

“There are certainly people requesting extra time who are not deserving of it,” says Warren Keller, Ph.D., a child neuropsychologist in East Amherst, New York. Keller supports the new policy of not flagging test scores, a decision made by the College Board, which owns and administers the SAT. But Keller also admits that he has been harassed by students whom he declined to diagnose as educationally handicapped.

Advocates for the disabled maintain that alerting universities to students’ disabilities is discriminatory and stigmatizing. Cognitive disabilities account for about 87 percent of requests for special accommodations, according to the College Board.

Some educators argue that lobbying for inaccurate diagnoses is particularly common in wealthy communities, where forceful parents search for a psychologist willing to diagnose their child with a learning disorder. The phenomenon, known as “diagnosis shopping,” is not new, but debate has intensified because of the decision not to flag scores of those with special needs.

College Board president Gaston Caperton acknowledged the risk of falsified diagnoses, stating “we must ensure that extended test-taking time is not granted to students who do not require this accommodation.”

COPYRIGHT 2003 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group