Paul L. Caron

Sunday, August 4, 2019

NY Times: Need Extra Time On Tests? It Helps To Have Cash

New York Times, Need Extra Time on Tests? It Helps to Have Cash:

From Weston, Conn., to Mercer Island, Wash., word has spread on parenting message boards and in the stands at home games: A federal disability designation known as a 504 plan can help struggling students improve their grades and test scores. But the plans are not doled out equitably across the United States.

In the country’s richest enclaves, where students already have greater access to private tutors and admissions coaches, the share of high school students with the designation is double the national average. In some communities, more than one in 10 students have one — up to seven times the rate nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. ...

Students in every ZIP code are dealing with anxiety, stress and depression as academic competition grows ever more cutthroat. But the sharp disparity in accommodations raises the question of whether families in moneyed communities are taking advantage of the system, or whether they simply have the means to address a problem that less affluent families cannot. ...

While experts say that known cases of outright fraud are rare, and that most disability diagnoses are obtained legitimately, there is little doubt that the process is vulnerable to abuse. Some of the learning differences exist in diagnostic gray areas that can make it difficult to determine whether a teenager is struggling because of parental and school pressure or because of a psychological impairment. And private mental health practitioners operate with limited oversight, either from school systems or from within their own professions. ...

In an analysis of Department of Education data, The Times looked at students with 504 designations at more than 11,000 high schools across the country. It did not include students who are served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a further-reaching program that can also offer extra testing time, but is generally meant for students more severely affected by disabilities.

The Times found a glaring wealth gap in 504 designations. At high schools in the richest school districts — the top 1 percent as measured by census income data — 5.8 percent of students held a 504 plan, more than double the national average of 2.7 percent. Some wealthy districts had 504 rates of up to 18 percent.


There were also racial disparities, The Times found. A larger percentage of white students held a 504 plan than students of any other race.

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I don't like this dishonesty but it only works because of the "well meaning" dishonesty of not flagging extra-time scores (which might still be meaningful where stress and speed might not be as important).

Posted by: Anand Desai | Aug 5, 2019 5:56:54 AM