How the College Admission Scandal Hurts People with Disabilities

All of us have been watching the unfolding story of the massive college admissions scandal and bribery in which dozens of parents and coaches are being charged.

While some of the students were given extra time on their college entrance exams due to learning disabilities, I was especially outraged upon learning that “…most of these kids don’t even have issues…”

students testing

These students were eligible for the extra time due to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which provide children with learning disabilities access to special education services, including testing accommodations. Testing accommodations are made in order to “level the playing field” and prevent children’s disabilities from interfering with their ability to demonstrate their actual skill level.  In no way is it intended to alter or lower the standards or expectations for a test. These testing accommodations are specified in the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or the 504 plan and agreed upon by parents, teachers, and school administrators.

Examples of testing accommodations would include:

  • allowing extended time
  • allowing frequent breaks
  • preferential seating
  • administration of the exam in a quiet room

Many, including myself, were shocked and dismayed to learn that parents would try to fabricate a disability in order to give their children an advantage during testing. Now many in the disability community worry that we could see some of the testing accommodations taken away from the students who really do need it.

I will certainly be keeping an eye on how these sequences of events unfold in the hopes that this important and essential right for students with disabilities is not lost.

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