ACT and Students with Disabilities

ACT Test, ACT Test-Taking, ACT Lawsuit

ACT is facing a class-action lawsuit (photo credit: Namkota).

Back in 2002, ACT, Inc. was supposed to stop flagging the exams of test-takers who were afforded extra time due to disabilities — and the move was retroactive to 1999. The switch was in response to a settlement reached in a 1999 lawsuit in which the organization essentially found itself mounting a defense against accusations that it wasn’t doing right by students with disabilities. But as we recently detailed for our readers, ACT, Inc. is now defending itself in a class-action lawsuit in which the organization is accused of sending information on students’ disabilities to colleges. As we understand it, ACT started sending this information to colleges — unbeknownst to students and their parents — about a year ago. In our view, this was thus a lawsuit waiting to happen.

ACT, Inc. Faces Allegations of Discriminating Against Students with Disabilities

As Samantha Cole reports for “Motherboard” in a piece entitled “Lawsuit Claims the ACT Sells Students’ Disability Data to Colleges,” “When students register to take the ACT—a standardized test used for college admissions taken by more than a million high schoolers each year—they answer a barrage of personal questions. As part of this, they are asked to note if they have disabilities that require ‘special provisions from the educational institution.'”

In the hope of offering some context here, students were never required to complete these questionnaires. But when they did choose to complete them, ACT (and College Board too for SAT test-takers) would put together lists from these questionnaires. Colleges would then buy these lists to market themselves to students on the lists. The actual questions, however, are an entirely separate issue since now students are asked about their disabilities if they’re requesting accommodations. And that, we believe, is entirely wrong, potentially even a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

You see, with the unflagging of extended time back in 2002, students with disabilities were never able to register for the ACT (or the SAT for that matter) online. Their school counselor had to register for them, submitting all names of students who were getting modifications for the next testing date. And so when ACT began unflagging the scores, all they did, as we understand it, was remove the asterisk next to each score and colleges were none the wiser. But now students with disabilities can register online for the ACT and thus they’re prompted with this battery of questions.

What we find most interesting is what’s posted on ACT’s website about “your privacy.” As the company states, “ACT will treat all information you provide to support your request as confidential and will use it solely to determine your eligibility for accommodations and English learner supports. Details about your test accommodations and English learner supports will be shared only with the testing staff and will not be released to anyone else, including your chosen score report recipients. The only exceptions are for those instances in which an examinee’s accommodation/supports-related documents and information are the subject of a subpoena or other court order, or an enforceable request from a government entity.” Oh, is that so?


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