When determining which accommodations will be appropriate and beneficial for each student, the Learning Specialist considers two major factors: the functional limitations of the student and the demands of the course.
In order to be considered for accommodations, all students must have a verified disability. This means they have completed an assessment battery that revealed two things: 1) they have a significant difference in the way they process information, and 2) that processing difference is severe enough that it has had a negative impact on their academic achievement. The Learning Specialist analyzes the assessment data, and identifies the specific functions that are being limited by the cognitive processing difficulties. For example, a student with low ability in short-term auditory memory may be limited in his/her ability to take lecture notes.
Each student must meet with a Learning Specialist at the beginning of every semester. They review the student’s class schedule and identify the demands of each class. They consider factors such as the amount of lecturing, the number and types of tests given, the difficulty of the reading requirements, the amount and type of writing required, and the student’s familiarity with the subject. The Specialist also considers the students’ learning strengths and preferred learning modalities.
Once the functional limitations, the learning strengths, and the course demands are identified, the Learning Specialist recommends appropriate accommodations. These accommodations will always meet three criteria:
- They must meet the legal requirements of Section 504 and the ADA as preventing exclusion from participation in the college’s educational program.
- They must be reasonable. They can not place an undue burden on the resources of the college or the DSPS program.
- They can not alter any of the course requirements that are essential to the instructional program.
Extra Time on Tests
There are a number of cognitive difficulties that can prevent a student from satisfactorily displaying their knowledge of course material within a limited time period. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- Visual processing speed
- Information retrieval speed
- Reading comprehension
- Attention and focus
- Organization skills
- Sequencing skills
The Learning Specialist determines how much extra time is necessary in order to remove the barriers imposed by time limits. To do this, she must take several factors into consideration, including the following:
- The specific functional limitations of the student
- The severity of these limitations
- The format of the test or exam
- The length of the test or exam
- The course subject
- The accommodations necessary
For example, a student may have difficulty with verbal comprehension; i.e. they do not correctly interpret printed material when they read it, but they do understand it when the material is read aloud to them. An appropriate accommodation for this student may be to tape record the test being read aloud. This student is going to take more time to complete the test than a student who can read the test himself. Additionally, a multiple choice test, with extensive answer choices, is going to take the student longer to listen to than, say, an essay test with brief writing prompts.
A 1992 study by the College Board revealed that the largest number of test-takers with learning disabilities required more than time and one-half, but less than double time to reach the same rate of completion as non-LD test-takers on the SATs.
A 1994 study completed by Arline Halper, Ed.D. at UCLA showed that the longer the exam was, the less extra time was needed. Therefore, the standard at UCLA is to provide 75% to 100% more time to complete time-limited midterm exams, while students taking three-hour final exams will generally receive 50% more time.
Glendale College follows these standards. For most exams, double time is the accepted standard. This is in alignment with many of the other colleges in California.