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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Are Testing Accommodations Unjust?


In Testing Accommodations for Students With Disabilities: Research-Based Practice, Benjamin J. Lovett and Lawrence J. Lewandowski review current theory and research and offer guidelines for deciding when testing accommodations are appropriate for a student with disabilities. Reviewers Robert Furey and Colleen Furey point out that although there is general consensus on the idea of academic testing accommodations for students with disabilities, there is ample complexity in implementing accommodations fairly. Examples offered by the reviewers include nondisabled students intent on “gaming the system” (Hinshaw & Scheffler, 2014, p. 96) seeking accommodations; accommodations that actually “overaccommodate” (Lovett & Lewandowski, 2015, p. 113) thereby giving disabled students unfair advantage; accommodations with little scientific evidence of validity; and, lack of equal access to needed accommodations among lower socioeconomic students.  An alternative solution would be a systemic strategy—altering the testing environment to reduce the need for accommodations. This would involve establishing testing systems that accommodate the widest range of students, thus decreasing the need for individual testing modifications.

Do you agree that testing accommodations are difficult to implement fairly?  How has the current culture of “high-stakes testing” contributed to the complexity of implementing accommodations fairly?  Is a systemic strategy that attempts to reduce the need for accommodations a realistic solution? 


Hinshaw, S. P., & Scheffler, R. M. (2014). The ADHD explosion: Myths, medication, money, and today’s push for performance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Read the Review
ReviewToo Accommodating? The Science and Myth of Testing Accommodations
By Robert Furey and Colleen Furey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(7)



I agree that more systematic research is needed. I have seen an increase in students receiving accommodations in my classes. Is this a national trend?

Up until some years ago, our faculty were expected to cope with accommodations. If a student was supposed to take an exam separately (outside of class) and have extra time, we as faculty had to make that work. This was difficult, especially in the larger classes (like Introduction to Psychology) and with minimal Teaching Assistant support. Thankfully, our university opened a Testing Center to help accommodate these students - so faculty did not have cope with scheduling and proctoring issues. The process eliminated a major obstacle.

The only other observation is one experience that I had some years ago. One student's accommodation essentially stated that the student could take the exams any time he wanted. I did not understand this and called our Disabilities Office, explaining why this was not feasible. The office agreed and we worked out new accommodations. I should also mention that the student never really tried to take advantage of their accommodations - the new guidelines were not questioned by the student (at least not to me), so it worked out very well.

I strongly support efforts to help students who need the accommodations, but I also support more research on these issues.

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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