College admissions scandal: “most of these kids don’t even have issues, but they’re getting time.”

For 20 years I’ve been writing about how the gaming of disability diagnoses in schools helps affluent families. And I was hardly alone: in 2004 Craig Lerner wrote a paper entitled: “‘Accommodations’ for the Learning Disabled: A Level Playing Field or Affirmative Action for Elites?” There hasn’t been much interest in fixing things.

Now test accommodations have surfaced as one key theme in the big and colorful new college-admissions scandal. “Particularly glaring in the 204-page indictment is that the majority of the children, whose parents were charged Tuesday, had seamlessly secured disability accommodations on their standardized tests. This enabled them to have additional time on the exams and to take them alone with the proctor at a private testing facility that was located, in some cases, thousands of miles from the test-takers’ residences.” [Michelle Robertson, SFGate/New Haven Register] More: Akira Olivia Kumamoto, Sacramento Bee; FBI affidavit on new scandal; Doree Lewak, New York Post last year on accommodations.


  • Given the reality that college admissions are unfair to start with–try being an Asian kid who has to do better simply because others that share a common ancestry–is it any wonder that people flout the admissions process?

    It is fascinating to watch the morality play going on here.

  • I could not imagine my 1960s high school teachers engaging in an SAT scam, but the disability-accommodation angle is revealing. Special-accommodation proctors are more vulnerable to burnout, once they realize the system is riddled with abuse. From there it is just a short step to sharing in the profits.

  • Just take time out of the equation. Then everyone is accommodated.
    Make the standard time equal to the extra time, and the extra time double that.
    The addd cost for SAT and ACT is nill, proctors average $16 per hour, so for typical mass proctor:student ratio, this adds a couple bucks per examinee.

    It’s how I run my courses. Write a test that should take an hour, give it a two hour slot, and let the extra time kid realize that extra time is no substitute for actually knowing the material. I’ve never had to stay beyond 2 hours even though up to 4 were available.

    • I went to a school for the blind, so we all were disabled and the exam was proctored by school staff.
      For the MAT the exam was proctored by the university’s staff.
      For normal courses, I worked with both the professors and the schools accessibility office to insure that the professor was happy with who was reading my exams and writing down the answers I provided.
      and lastly, my computer based statistics course defeated me three times despite the A’s received in other statistics courses where I was actually doing the calculations. Something about pages and pages and pages of computer output on actual paper, rather than remaining in the system where I could access it with my screen reader was just too much for the poor grad student to get read, since he couldn’t just skip to the bottom and other things that my screen reader could do because it might have been considered helping. And yes, I had coded and used both SAS and SPSSx previous to the course, including loading the twenty odd disks for SAS on my pc…
      Synopsis: you aren’t going to have a blind guy go through 50-70+ pages of output and answer questions with a reader that can only go sequentially within questions.