Does Loophole Give Rich Kids More Time on SAT?

When Ali Hellberg, 19, was in prep school, she said several of her classmates obtained notes from psychologists diagnosing them with learning disabilities, even though they didn't have any learning problems.

They faked learning disabilities to get extra time to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, in the hopes of getting a higher score, she said.

"I had a friend who is a good math student but is no math brain, and she got extended time and got a perfect score on her math SAT," Hellberg said.

That friend now attends an Ivy League school.

Some call this scheme the rich-kids loophole. With intense competition to get into Ivy League and other elite colleges, students say they need nearly perfect SAT scores, as well as great grades and impressive extra-curricular activities. A rising chorus of critics say high school students from wealthy ZIP codes and elite schools obtain questionable diagnoses of learning disabilities to secure extra time to take the SATs and beef up their scores.

Hellberg believes that to get into Harvard or Princeton, she'd need to score at least a 1500. The highest SAT score is 1600.

"I got below 1400 and I knew I didn't have a shot getting into an Ivy despite my grades and extra-curriculars," she said.

'Hired Guns' Give Diagnosis

Approximately 300,000 students will take the three-hour-and-forty-five-minute SAT this Saturday; about 30,000 taking the test this year will be given special accommodations, including extra time.

For decades, the College Board, which administers the SAT, has allowed up to twice as much time to accommodate students who have legitimate learning disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But with college admissions more competitive than ever, guidance counselors and other educators say privileged kids have gamed the system.

At the elite Wayland High school outside Boston, the number of students receiving special accommodations is more than 12 percent, more than six times the estimated national average of high school students with learning disabilities.

Wayland guidance counselor Norma Greenberg said that it's not that difficult for wealthy, well-connected students to get the diagnoses they want.

"There are a lot of hired guns out there, there are a lot of psychologists who you can pay a lot of money to and get a murky diagnosis of subtle learning issues," Greenberg said. "'Subtle' is a word that is really a red flag. 'Executive functioning' is another red flag, something that is kind of a new thing."

Other high school guidance counselors told ABC News that "diagnosis shopping" has given rise to a cottage industry of doctors and medical professionals, all willing to give students the documentation they need to get the extra test time they want.

Concentrated Privilege

The natural proportion of learning disabilities should be somewhere around 2 percent, the College Board said, but at some elite schools, up to 46 percent of students receive special accommodations to take the tests, including extra time.

Harvard graduate student and researcher Sam Abrams conducted a study on students in Washington, D.C, where the number of students receiving accommodations is more than three times the national average.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...