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The scores of SAT exams taken by disabled students who needed extra time will no longer be “flagged,” or pointed out to colleges and others looking at the results, the College Board says. Advocates had said the practice violated federal law. The Monday announcement came as part of a settlement with Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit law firm in Oakland, Calif., averting a possible lawsuit. The new policy, which takes effect Oct. 1, 2003, applies not only to the widely used college entrance exam but to the College Board’s practice PSAT and Advanced Placement exams. Disability advocates praised the decision as ending a discriminatory practice, though some admissions officials have warned that flagging tests deters false disability claims filed by students who want more time to take exams in hopes of boosting their scores. Flagging is done by adding the words “nonstandard administration” on score reports. The vast majority of test takers who receive special accommodation get more time, typically for attention deficit disorder and dyslexia. Among more than 1 million students who took the various College Board tests in the school year that ended in June, 55,550 required special accommodation, said spokeswoman Chiara Coletti. “We’re extremely pleased,” said Alison Aubrejuan, a Disability Rights Advocates attorney. The group is now looking at the ACT’s college entrance test — the SAT’s rival — and other admissions tests such as the LSAT for law schools, she said. “We’re hopeful that, in light of today’s settlement with the College Board, these other testing agencies will be re-evaluating their policies and cease their practice of flagging.” ACT Inc. plans to continue flagging exams taken by the disabled for the time being, but is re-evaluating its policy, spokesman Ken Gullette said. The new policy is a sort of postscript to a 1999 federal lawsuit that Disability Rights Advocates brought against the College Board’s independent spinoff, the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., which develops and administers College Board tests along with its own exams. The lawsuit was brought initially by Mark Breimhorst, who has no hands and requested extra time to take ETS’s business school admissions test, the GMAT. The International Dyslexia Association and Californians for Disability Rights later joined as plaintiffs. In late 2000, a settlement was reached, with ETS agreeing it would no longer flag its tests taken with extended time. The College Board also took part in those settlement talks. Part of the ETS settlement was an agreement that a special panel take up the question of flagging College Board tests. If the College Board failed to resolve the issue, the plaintiffs would be free to sue. This April, the panel recommended the College Board stop flagging extended-time tests. “This is really going to change the lives of people with disabilities,” said Breimhorst, 32, who is now a student in Stanford University’s MBA program. “They don’t have to have this scarlet letter attached to their transcript. ‘Here’s this guy who got this score, but … ,’” he said. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board said in a prepared statement that, “we have agreed to abide by their decision. While agreeing that the rights of disabled persons should prevail over other considerations, we also recognize the ongoing concerns raised by guidance counselors and admissions directors … to ensure that extended test-taking time is not granted to students who do not require this accommodation.” While each high school is responsible for determining whether a disability merits extra time, College Board guidelines say proof of such an impairment should include a school file documenting a history of problems requiring accommodation and a diagnosis by an expert. The College Board does spot checks and audits schools, Coletti said. Following a Los Angeles Times investigation two years ago, a California state audit found high school students getting extra time for the SAT were more likely to be rich, white and attending private school. Poorer students seemed less likely to get extra time because their schools and parents were unaware they could ask for it. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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