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Extended Time Students Are Not to Blame

Senior Alex Allen checks her watch as she struggles to finish her assignment. Photo: Jill Rawls

Have you subscribed to Time Premium? Time and a half for thousands of dollars? Around a third of Pace upper school students have, myself included.

I get asked all the time why I have extended time accommodations. I understand that it is frustrating to be on the outside of the extended time bubble, especially for students who feel that they need it. And the system does need change: every student should have the opportunity to find out whether or not they qualify, and testing for diagnoses of learning disabilities should be available for free.

Regular-time students who express their frustration through bashing the students who receive it are not solving anything, though. The system has room for improvement, but that is not the fault of the students who have extended time.

While I can only speak from my experience, I believe that the majority of us with extended time accommodations don’t just have them to have them. We don’t spend more time on school work just for fun. Staying an extra hour on the Friday before summer is not something anyone wants to do.

There are many misconceptions regarding accommodations. The point of extended time isn’t to allow me to finish the conclusion of the essay that my regular-time peers have ripped off their desks. The point is for me to have a few extra minutes to process what the prompt even means because when I read something it never makes sense the first time.

When I hear instructions, I have trouble processing them. I worked with an audiologist to improve my slow processing, I was tutored for years, and at my old school I had to miss a class every day to go to “Resources” with the purpose of catching up to my peers.

When I was younger, I would watch all my friends understand concepts that went right over my head. I would tear up my papers out of frustration. Tutors and specialists help, but there is no way to completely re-train someone’s brain. People should think before questioning why others have accommodations. No one knows how other people learn.

I do believe the policy in place for standardized tests should be changed. For the ACT specifically, it is not uncommon for students who have a history of exhibiting learning differences to be denied the accommodation, while students who have recently acquired extended time are approved. In the case of standardized tests, a finicky system will not do.

For standardized tests specifically, I support Knightly News editor and senior Charlie Hirsch’s argument: every student should be given as much time as they want. Unlimited time cannot make students smarter, but it can take away pressure, and performing under pressure only hinders capability. College Board and ACT should want students to be able to show the extent of their knowledge without the distraction of the clock at the front of the room.

I cannot argue with the fact that parts of the system are unfair. The students who receive it, though, are not to blame.