Time Out On Extra Test Time

Glenn Ricketts

 If you’re in the teaching business at any level, you’ve probably had to deal with the numerous “special education” accommodations to which any number of students are entitled, which they've sometimes been getting  from their early primary school years.  The one I’m required to provide most often at the college level is extended time during examinations. 

I’ve often wondered about the wisdom and efficacy of these arrangements, which are usually justified by their defenders in the name of “fairness.”  The assumption seems to be that there are lots of promising achievers out there who simply need a little more time in view of their anxieties or “learning disabilities” where test-taking is concerned.  

In my own experience, I can’t see that most of the students who qualify for the extra time derive much benefit from it.  Their scores are usually very low end, and I frankly don’t think they'd improve with an entire day to take the test, since their study habits and writing abilities are often pretty deficient as well. 

But there are also “special" students who do very well on most exams, to the extent that I’ve wondered why they rated the extra time.  Despite assurances from the special education staff that they do, I just can’t see the need.  But then what do I know, right? 

That’s why I was struck to read this piece by one such student, now at Dartmouth, who fesses up and concludes that his testing accommodations in high school gave him an unfair advantage in the name of “fairness.”  In fact, he thinks it’s probably what got him into Dartmouth.  

I’m beginning to understand why so many unclassified students complain and wonder why they can’t also have more time on exams.   And the way things are going in today’s “student centered” education, they’ll probably get it.


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