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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Standardized Tests and Higher Education

The Government Accountability Office reports:

Standardized tests are often required to gain admission into postsecondary schools or to obtain professional certifications. Federal disability laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require entities that administer these tests to provide accommodations, such as extended time or changes in test format, tostudents with disabilities.

An estimated 179,000 individuals with disabilities—approximately 2 percent—of about 7.7 million test takers took an exam with an accommodation in the most recent testing year, according to data provided to us.19 Approximately half of all accommodations requested and granted were for applicants with learning disabilities, and one-quarter was for those with ADD or ADHD. The remainder of accommodations requested and granted was for applicants with physical or sensory disabilities, such as an orthopedic or vision impairment; or psychiatric disabilities, such as depression; and other disabilities, such as diabetes and autism spectrum disorders.
The report finds lack of coordination in enforcement:
 Federal enforcement of laws and regulations governing testing accommodations is largely complaint-driven and involves multiple agencies. While Justice hasoverall responsibility for enforcing compliance under the ADA, Education andHHS have enforcement responsibilities under the Rehabilitation Act for testingcompanies that receive federal financial assistance from them. Education andHHS officials said that they investigate each eligible complaint. Justice officialssaid they review each complaint at in-take, but they do not make a determination on every complaint because of the large volume of complaints it receives. Justicehas clarified ADA requirements for testing accommodations primarily by revising its regulations, but it lacks a strategic approach to targeting enforcement.Specifically, Justice has not fully utilized complaint data—either its own or that ofother agencies—to inform its efforts. Justice officials said that they reviewed complaints on a case-by-case basis but did not conduct systematic searches of their data to inform their overall approach to enforcement. Additionally, Justicehas not initiated compliance reviews of testing companies, and its technical assistance on this subject has been limited.