Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Test Timing

One of the classic accommodations for those with "minor learning disabilities/differences" is allowing more time on tests. In Israel, 25% is added to the time for some during the high school "matriculation" exams, known as the "mivchanei bagrut."

For some people it makes the difference between passing and failing. For some it's just knowing that there is extra time that makes it better. It takes that panic pressure off. I try to have my students skip the tough questions and come back later. Some people can't concentrate for very long periods of time, so extra time just doesn't help.

The American College Board Testing service is weighing the advantages and disadvantages of changing their tests to make them fairer for all. They may eliminate timing completely, but that isn't too great in a "multiple choice test," since it's known that one shouldn't go over multiple choice answers, since the first is frequently a better guess than the correction. With unlimited time, some students may start playing with their answers and find themselves erasing the correct and substituting mistakes.

I'm sure glad I'm finished with that part of my life.


Jonathan I Katz said...

These students aren't disabled. They are simply cheating. The purpose of a test is to measure performance under standard conditions. If some students take an easier test or (the same thing) get more time, their results are not comparable to those of students who do not
receive these advantages. That's cheating, just like bringing a crib sheet into the exam.

Anonymous said...

It might interest you to know that having extra time helps everybody SLIGHTLY, but helps people with learning disabilities VERY MUCH. I think a lot of people get worked up about this issue because they get frustrated when they run out of time with about ten questions left on a test or something. But many students with learning disabilities if they were taking the test under the same conditions would be still only three-quarters of the way through, or locked in a panic attack at the beginning.

It's also possible that some people who wish they had extended time actually DO have learning disabilities that have never been diagnosed. Which is a shame.

Finally, one argument sometimes made against extended time is that in "the real world", LD people won't have these kinds of accomodations made for them. I think in fact these sorts of things train students well for "the real world," partly because the message is, you still have to do the same test as everyone else, and if you want to do as well as other people, you're going to have to take extra time to do it in, if that's what you need. Extra time isn't FUN. You have to spend more time taking a test. But if you're faced with a deadline in the real world, you might, for instance, start it early or work overtime or skip lunch in order to give yourself the time you need to get it done. I think telling kids that they can do the same quality of work as their "normal" peers if they put extra time into their work is a good message.

a teacher in Florida said...

Another point of interest is that of people who are not native to the United States. The SAT is quite biased for those who are minorities, not just those with learning disabilities. I am Hispanic and was in the top 10 percent of my class, but could not do well on the SAT due to vocabulary delays in English. I spoke fluent English and Spanish and was an avid reader, yet my vocabulary was not in a position to quickly come up with answers on the SAT. There are many students such as me, or those who have not had the life experience to be exposed to those vocabulary words who would do very well in a college setting due to drive, motivation and determination. It is sad that a test determines the amount of financial aid, the type of school that you can enter, and the opinions of others on the type of work that you would do. Colleges should strongly consider using a portfolio based assessment that demonstrates students' strengths and weaknesses. Teachers, artists, and other college graduates must now use portfolios as part of their college graduation requirements. The same shoudl be said for high school graduates.

Batya said...

In today's real world, less is memorized, and the tests don't reflect the demands.