Giving extra time to students with learning disabilities: Some students need extra time on exams in order to fairly compete with peers

Karlee Gulkis, Contributing Writer

Some students at Schreiber receive extra time on tests and quizzes for a variety of reasons.  Many find this to be unfair for the students who have a strict time limit while taking exams.

According to the United States Department of Justice, “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to fairly compete for and pursue such opportunities by requiring testing entities to offer exams in a manner accessible to persons with disabilities.  When needed testing accommodations are provided, test takers can demonstrate their true aptitude.”

Extra time is a test modification that allows students with disabilities to compete with non-disabled peers without being hindered by their disability.  These disabilities of course range in severity, yet for many students a little extra time may go a long way.

“I think it’s awesome that our school is able to accommodate for different students’ needs.  I think that giving extra time really gives the chance to succeed to students that may not otherwise have it,” said junior Lauren Seltzer.

The students receiving extra time sometimes need the time to organize their thoughts because they process information differently or have difficulty keeping their information neat and organized.  This does not mean these students do not know the answers but rather it takes them longer to answer questions correctly.

Receiving extra time does not mean these students are taking the easy way out or even necessarily receive an advantage over their peers.  Studies show that extra time does not help students who do not need it.  The extra time also would not help students who do not know the answers because no matter how much time they had, they would not be able to answer the questions.  Extra time is simply a just way to even the playing field.

“I think it’s completely fair for students who need extra time to receive it because otherwise it would be holding them back from doing their best in school,” said sophomore Maya Konoff.

With extra time, students who need it have the opportunity to be assessed accurately on the material and not whatever they complete in the set amount of time.  Students who need the time do better without the stress of the constricted amount of time, whether it be on exams in school or even standardized testing.

“Students who need more time on their tests will benefit greatly from extra time because they will have more time to elaborate on questions they normally would have to rush on,” said freshman Ava Weshler.

According to Rick Lavoie’s research on learning disabilities, and his video Frustration, Anxiety, Tension, F.A.T. The City Workshop (1989), frustration, anxiety, and tension impact the performance of students with learning disabilities.  When testing modifications such as extra time are available to students with learning disabilities, these problems are alleviated, resulting in optimal performance.

“Knowing that I have extra time helps to greatly decrease my anxiety levels during tests,” said senior Allison Khin.

Much research has been done on test accommodations including extra time.  The ADA has implemented the policy to promote fairness for people with disabilities and prevent discrimination against these individuals in academic environments.

It is absolutely fair to provide extra time to those who need it, the same way we would not give the same medication to all students, but we would prescribe medication to any individual who needed it specifically to improve their health.

Perhaps the students who do not think extra time is fair when only given to some students do not realize that fair is not always the same for everyone.

Test accommodations such as extra time are fair for students who need it so they can have the opportunity to demonstrate their true ability and succeed in a manner that is equivalent to their peers. To ensure the greatest success for all students in our community, leveling measures such as extra time are pivotal and important.

With the acceptance, and hopefully growth, of extra time alternatives we move closer towards a future in which academic endeavors for students with hindering disabilities is made even a little more manageable. If students who are in need of them are introduced to extra time alternatives from a young age, they will be more motivated to succeed. Luckily, this need is presently being met in our school. It is good to know that Schreiber offers extra time for such students, making it all the more possible for them to achieve their fullest potential.