Science Directorate and OCR Discuss the Flagging of Test Scores


In April, Science Directorate staff met with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to discuss the issue of flagging test scores when an accommodation for a disability is provided during the test administration. In 1979, following the 1974 Rehabilitation Act, OCR established an interim policy allowing for the flagging of college admissions test scores. Even with the passage of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), OCR's interim policy did not change. OCR is now reevaluating this issue in an effort to craft a permanent policy.

The interim policy allows for scores to be flagged, typically with an asterisk, to indicate that a test administration deviated from standard procedures. An asterisk could mean that an individual with visual impairment had a reader assist with the exam, or it could mean that the lights went out during the test administration, interrupting everyone taking the exam at that time. Without additional information, one could not be certain of the meaning of the asterisk for a given individual.

OCR must answer many questions before crafting new policy. Does the asterisk warn the decision maker to proceed cautiously and interpret the test result in light of the fact that the test was administered under nonstandard conditions? Does it simply identify an individual as having a disability? Does this identification help or hinder an individual's chances of admission? Is flagging a violation of ADA, amounting to a preadmission medical inquiry? Should the asterisk be accompanied by interpretive information, such as conclusions about the test score?

OCR, faced with such questions, had hoped that, in the interim, research would be conducted on the interpretation of test scores with nonstandard test administrations, providing an empirical basis for policy. Little research has been conducted, however, that helps to interpret test scores for nonstandard administrations, that equates nonstandard administrations with standard, or that assesses the impact of a flagged score on one's chances of admission into college.

The field of measurement is certainly challenged by ADA to address the individual in an arena that relies solely on group data. This, more than any lack of interest, explains the relative dearth of research providing insight into these complex measurement questions.

Any APA members having relevant research to share on this topic should write to the
U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
Room 5414
330 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Attn: Howard Kallem




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