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Test Flagging, Debunked

A Disability Law blog entry alerts us to Slate Magazine's "Medical Examiner" piece by Arthur Allen on "the flagging of the test scores of people who received accommodations" and tells us that Allen "all but says that the solution is to reinstitute flagging on the SAT."

Disability Law blog's Sam Bagenstos explains why this approach is wrong:

I think the basic problem lies elsewhere: The overuse of timed tests. . . .

[W]hy do we need to select college students and graduate students (and lawyers -- most of whom will not be trial lawyers) with them? I've spent most of my adult life in universities, and one thing I can confidently report is that college and graduate school (and even law school) emphatically allow the luxury of time. Why should my speed at answering questions matter at all, pedaogically speaking?

The real reason for timed tests, he says, is that they're easier to administer and grade.
Get rid of the timed exams, and the inequities Allen worries about "will go away."

More from Bagenstos:

People with learning disabilities are really the canary in the coal mine here: They may be especially affected by the way timed exams overemphasize speed over substantive knowledge and aptitude, but they highlight a problem of far more general application. The solution shouldn't be to make the time limits stricter. It should be to remove the time limits altogether (or make only a portion of the test timed), and to craft exams that test, in appropriate proportions, the skills that are really important to scholarly and professional success.


Being a college student I have many thoughts on this particular issue. I feel that timed tests are almost necessary in colleges. I have taken classes where there are thousands of students in one class, five testing centers on campus, and we all take that test at the exact same times. These large tests are often given around 8 pm. If we did not have a time limit on these tests, students could be in the testing center until 3 am. Which is unfair to the teacher or test procter who may have an early class the next day. It is also not fair to the other students who do not have the time nor energy to stay until the wee hours of the night.
As far as disabled students getting more time on exams. I feel that a lot of times this opportunity is taking advantage of. I am friends with plenty of students who take major advantage of. I think the requirments to be able to take longer on tests needs to be more strict. I feel that if one need more time on an exam they need to have a serious learning disable or a mental problem that may negatively affect them in a timed test.

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