No Accommodations For You!
Accommodations for standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, MCAT, GRE and LSAT are sought from organizations outside of the school system and may be new territory for students with special needs and their parents. Extended time is the most common accommodation sought and can be critical for students to achieve their potential on these exams. Many major test makers, such as the makers of the SAT and ACT, have streamlined the process for receiving accommodations. The College Board, for instance, no longer requires students to submit documentation with their accommodations request if the student has an IEP or 504 plan that provides for accommodations. Not all test makers, however, have implemented such a process, and the varied procedures and documentation required for obtaining accommodations for some tests can be daunting.
A recent case in California federal court illustrates this problem. In its original complaint filed in 2014, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged that the Law School Admission Council (makers of the LSAT, the law school admissions exam) systematically denied accommodations to LSAT takers. The parties eventually entered into a consent decree that required LSAC to change numerous practices concerning accommodations. Among other things, LSAC was required to provide written explanations for the denial of an accommodations request, presumptively grant 50% time to students with learning disabilities, and end the practice of offering altered requests for extended time (i.e. offer 75% time in response to a request for 100% time). LSAC also agreed to end the process of flagging – that is, alerting law schools to LSAT scores earned by those with testing accommodations. According to LSAC, following the order it now grants accommodations that have been provided to test takers on other exams, such as the SAT.
In a motion filed in October 2017, the California agency seeks to hold LSAC in contempt for failing to comply with the consent decree. The contempt motion alleges that LSAC posed applicants with an ultimatum upon receiving a request for accommodations – either accept fewer accommodations than requested or receive no accommodations at all. Test takers, according to the papers filed in the lawsuit, were then required to resubmit their requests with the reduced accommodations. According to the contempt motion, LSAC used this process to fudge numbers concerning how many full accommodations were granted and to circumvent reporting requirements under the prior consent decree. LSAC denies these allegations and asserts that it has complied with the consent decree.
Unfortunately, the allegations against LSAC are not uncommon. I have heard horror stories of test makers requesting endless documentation and then either denying or granting only a fraction of the accommodations requested. Intimated by the organization and frightened that they will not receive any accommodations, test takers comply with the organization’s demands. If you find yourself in a similar circumstance, you should consult an attorney about your options and rights under the law.