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Testing Company ACT to Pay $16 Million After Revealing Students' Disabilities to Colleges

What happened: College admissions testing company ACT agreed to pay $16 million to students with disabilities in California after it flagged student disability statuses to colleges. It also excluded disabled students from its beneficial recruitment program, the Educational Opportunity Service. ACT reported to colleges which students had requested disability accommodations during testing or otherwise marked their disability status during testing.

The decision, which was announced on Thursday, followed a 2018 class-action federal lawsuit filed in California that alleged the ACT violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The L.A. Times reported ACT denies wrongdoing in the case but a “consent decree announced as part of the settlement prohibits ACT from engaging in any of these practices.” ACT’s college admissions testing competitor the College Board does not report student disabilities on its score reports.

Every college has their own understanding of a disability and I do feel like it did hurt me because it wasn’t my voice being told. — Haile Bloom, lead plaintiff

The Frontlines: Accommodations on college admissions testing can help provided disabled students who are applying to university an equal opportunity. The ACT allows accommodations for the following a number of documented disabilities, from learning disabilities and psychiatric disorders to medical conditions and students with low vision or who are hard of hearing.

  • Accommodations for the ACTs and the College Board’s SATs include extended time, large-type testing booklet, permission to have food and drink during the exam, and stop-the-clock breaks.
  • A California judge ruled in early September that the University of California system must stop all use of SAT and ACT in admissions because many students with disabilities cannot access test sites during the coronavirus outbreak.

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A Mighty Voice: In the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal in 2019, it was revealed that some parents allegedly exploited disability accommodations to try and help their children receive better scores. Contributor Laura Smith wrote at the time that these accommodations are in place to level the playing field for disabled students.

“My daughter works a thousand times harder than the average student just to be able to learn, and she achieves small successes only due to these accommodations. It makes me sick to know a student who has no learning disabilities faked one. It makes me more angry than had I known they just cheated. It’s more disgusting than pretending you were an athlete when you really weren’t (which many did as well).”  You can submit your first-person story, too.

From Our Community:

College Touring with a disability #College #Disability #CerebralPalsy

Other Things to Know: Standardized tests, whether for college admissions exams or for something else, can be very stressful. This is what you should know about applying for accommodations for the ACT and SAT, symptoms of test-anxiety and the importance of extended time for those who need it.

How to Take Action: The ACT has stopped reporting disability status to colleges and will making other changes to protect test takers with disabilities. You can learn more information on this lawsuit and the settlement in the L.A. Times article here. 

Image via Getty Images/Chainarong Prasertthai