South reflects on extended ACT/SAT time policy

Lauren Bianco, staff reporter

Imagine you are a student sitting in a classroom, taking the ACT like all of your fellow classmates. As the clock strikes 12:55, the two hours and fifty-five minutes are over. Well, at least for most, but not for you. Your friends begin to pack up and call your name, wondering why you haven’t turned in your test. The teacher asks them to leave, without you. Just you and a few other students are left: the students who get extended test time.

According to Julie Smith, Transition Specialist, approximately 10 percent of Glenbrook South Students are eligible to use their extended time on tests such as the ACTs/SATs. Also, for students to even have extended time in the first place, they must have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) or a 504 plan, which according to Mary Choldin, Special Education Counselor, an IEP ensures that a student who has a disability receives specialized instruction and related services, whereas a 504 Plan is developed for a student with a disability who isn’t receiving special education services to make sure that they receive accommodations to access the learning environment. Yet not all the students who have these plans are given extended time.

“GBS doesn’t determine who gets extended time on ACT or SAT,” Smith said,  “So what we do is we submit the information that we have used – so the reasons that we believe that they should get the extended time – we submit those to the college board and ACT, so that College Board and ACT can make that decision.”

Some students who are given extra time for their testing whether it be ACT/SAT or not, also choose not to use it. If they always finish tests on time, then they don’t have to use it said Smith. However there also are students who need the time and are embarrassed that they are given this opportunity.

“It’s really personal to the students,” Smith said. “There are some students that are more than willing to talk about it, there are other students that are so embarrassed to walk into a separate room and to use that accommodation. So I would encourage any student whose embarrassed to […] figure out a way to make you not embarrassed about this because it’s really about leveling the playing field.”

Sophomore Lila Holt* is one of several students who has a 504 plan and is allowed to have extended time. According to Holt, she personally has not used the time recently, but has the option to use it for her upcoming ACT/SAT in her junior and senior years. And while she hasn’t used her extended time since middle school, she thinks it is important and fair for students who need it to use it.

“Extended time for them, is normal time for other students,” Holt said. “The normal time it takes for the other students, their mind is working at the same pace as if students were working with their extended time.”

According to Smith, GBS has to submit applications to the board for them to determine who gets extended time, because there are so many students who desire to have this opportunity, but might not necessarily need it. Some lie about having a disability to try and benefit from this time, but isn’t fair for those who really need

“There are students that want it, just so they can increase their score, but it really isn’t fair,” Smith said. “And that sort of gives anybody a bad name who gets it.”

Smith said there are also issues between the fact that some students and parents don’t understand why students can’t get this extra time. To those without this extended time, it seems unfair that other students [with an IEP or 504 plan] who have this time, should not get this time if they cannot have it either.

“It’s a long term standing issue or problem that they’ve had, that is not to get ahead on test,” Smith said.

*Name has been changed