After qualifying for extra time, students find it hard to implement

 

Joe ’08* received permission for extended time last February following six hours of tests spread out over a month to determine if he has a learning disability. However, he doesn’t always use extra time because of the difficulties of implementing it.

For years, Joe has known that he writes slower than other students, so he applied for extended time and was diagnosed with dysgraphia, a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities causing a person’s writing to be distorted or incorrect.

About 10 percent of the upper school student population are permitted extended time after going through a complex series of tests.

Ultimately, these students get a recommendation from a doctor or a psychologist, Nairy Simonyan, Coordinator of Student Programs, said.

At Harvard-Westlake, students must turn in the paperwork to their dean for extended time, Simonyan and Dr. Sheila Siegel, the school psychologist who also aids in picking out students who she feels “may have learning issues” and might benefit from using extended time.

Students who qualify are allowed time-and-a-half, which means that for a standard 45-minute test, an extended time student is granted 67.5 minutes.

Students are responsible for informing their eachers three days in advance of any test, quiz or in-class essay if they want to use the extension.

For the many students who feel apprehensive about telling even their closest friends that they need extended time, having to tell their teachers constantly increases that onus.

The extended time test-taking room, Emerson Room, next to Simonyan’s office in Seaver, differs significantly from regular classrooms.

Though Simonyan is usually in her own office, there is rarely a teacher in the room itself, and students are expected to abide by the Honor Code during testing.

Due to lack of direct supervision, Joe has noticed that “people on occasion will talk to each other” though he personally hasn’t seen any cheating.

Teachers have told Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra they would really like to leave their own classroom at times during a test.

“There always was the question that people would take advantage of that,” Salamandra said.

Working in such a laidback setting makes dishonorable test taking “much more possible inside the room than it is outside,” Joe said.

One student, who prefers to remain anonymous, said, “I don’t want to publicize the cheating going on in the room. I’d like to keep it the way it is.”

Students complain that the test-taking room can be noisy.

People often amble in and out of Simonyan’s office, and Portia Collins, Parents’ Activities Liaison, often has to venture through the interior of the test-taking room in order to enter and leave her office, Joe said.

“There are more disruptions than in a regular classroom,” Joe said. “But the noise isn’t insurmountable.”

Although extended time milieu differs greatly from a al test-taking room, Salamandra still hopes for uniformity in administering tests.

 

*name withheld upon request

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