Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Give All Students Extended Time on Tests

Obviously, schools have long put time constraints on students taking assessments. That reality extends to standardized tests like the PSAT, SAT, & ACT, and those tests are taking on a greater prominence than ever before, especially when it comes to accountability. Those of us in the education world know all about the term "extended time" because some kids with learning challenges require additional time to be able to compete on those tests. Sometimes they use it, sometimes they don't. But it's a necessary condition for many young people. And when it comes to college entrance exams like ACT and SAT, that's of upmost importance.

It's especially true in reading. I've long been a critic of the time limits placed on the reading test for ACT. The constraints are, in my opinion, a bit ridiculous. Students are asked to read four passages and answer forty questions in thirty-five minutes. That means averaging 8 minutes and 45 seconds per passage. That's not reading - it's a sprint. These passages are read "blind" with no prior knowledge or prep, and the obscurity of the passages can by quite challenging. I can't imagine how offering the kids an additional fifteen minutes would be bad. It's true that some kids can answer all questions correctly in the short time - but is that really so important or more impressive than a kid who would take longer. Seriously. When in our adult lives are we given such ridiculous time-constrained tasks. Occasionally, I'm given work to finish in a day. Never am I given completely new information to digest and comprehend in forty minutes. 

Why shouldn't all kids have extended time if they want it. I hated when I was proctoring the ACT or SAT and I had to deliver those dreaded words: "Stop Working. Put your pencils down and close your test booklet." How cruel for that kid struggling to finish the last few bubbles. Time constraints are arbitrary and completely unnecessary. I don't care how long it takes a kid to finish the reading. Give him two hours. Give him all day. If he needs that time to get the right answers, then give it to him.

If ACT and SAT really want to revise and reform their tests, they need to develop a way to allow all kids the time they need to demonstrate knowledge and skills.

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