The Law School Admission Council has agreed to stop "flagging" the scores of those with disabilities who get extra time to take the test, which is central to admission to many law schools. Further, the council has agreed to “streamline” its process for reviewing requests for extra time or other accommodations for those with disabilities.
The moves settles a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and three individuals that said that the practice of flagging such scores, and the way the council handled requests for the accommodations, both violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under that act, students with some disabilities ask for and obtain a variety of accommodations in test-taking, including in some cases extra time to take the test. The suit argued that by letting law schools know that the test was taken under special conditions, the council was effectively stigmatizing these law school applicants.
A statement from the council, which until now has defended score-flagging, said that it wanted to settle the case, but did not believe its past practices were inappropriate. The statement said that the council was changing its policies “despite the fact that professional testing standards support LSAC’s practice of annotating such LSAT scores.”
While the council statement focused on the flagging issue, the Justice Department statement noted that the council has also agreed to a new system for approving requests for extra time. Specifically, the council pledged to adopt rules for “automatically granting most testing accommodations" for which "a candidate can show s/he has previously received for a standardized exam related to postsecondary admissions (such as the SAT, ACT or GED, among others).”
The council agreed to pay $7.73 million as a penalty, and the funds will be used, among other things, to compensate those named in the suit and to create a “victims’ compensation fund.”
The Justice Department’s original announcement that it was joining a suit on the issue stressed that it believed that the council, known as the LSAC, was making decisions about LSAT accommodation requests that were resulting in some students being unable to be admitted to law schools.
The suit cited one would-be lawyer who was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 7, had been evaluated over the years and received permission for extra time on multiple Advanced Placement exams and the SAT. Despite this history and diagnosis – and a full neuropsychological evaluation he submitted -- the LSAC rejected his request for extra time and, according to the Justice Department, would not offer an explanation. His inability to take the LSAT with extra time, the government said, prevented him from applying to law school.
The issue of flagging has been especially controversial in the testing industry, although many major tests changed policies a long time ago. The College Board, settling a lawsuit, agreed in 2002 to stop flagging scores on the SAT of those who require special conditions for taking the test.
The Association of American Medical Colleges, however, continues to flag scores of the MCAT, the admissions test for medical schools, if the test was taken under any non-standard condition.
The AAMC’s policy states: “For tests that are administered under non-standard conditions, primarily those that involve a change in the timing of the test, we do not know if the scores obtained will be comparable to scores obtained under standard testing conditions. Therefore, tests that are administered under non-standard conditions will be noted as non-standard on score reports. Score reports do not indicate the reason for the administration of a non-standard MCAT exam or the specific type of accommodation that was provided.”