Educational Testing and Psychotherapy
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 577 - 4750

Case Law for High Stakes Standardized Testing

Justice Department Intervenes in Lawsuit Against Law School Admission Council on Behalf of Test Takers with Disabilities Nationwide

“A federal judge issued an order today allowing the Justice Department to intervene in a disability discrimination lawsuit against the Law School Admission Council (LSAC)………”

Defining My Dyslexia

A truly excellent article from the NY Times I’d like to share…

Defining My Dyslexia
Perhaps I’ve succeeded not despite, but because of, my disability.

Why U.S. Girls Underperform In Math, But Swedish Girls Don’t

An excellent article I thought I’d pass along…

Working Memory Exercises: Effective or Bunk?

When I provide feedback to clients that their working memory ability is weak they often ask what can be done about this. They want to know if there are ways to improve their working memory. Unfortunately, to date, there is no clear way to do this. Several companies have created and marketed computer-based programs which purportedly increase working memory ability through the use of daily exercises. Recently a team of researchers has taken an in-depth look at whether these programs are truly effective. As reported in the October 2012 edition of CHADD’s magazine: Attention, there is no clear benefit from these programs. Quoting from this article, “….several working memory ‘training programs’ have been developed and marketed. Unfortunately these programs don’t work very well (if at all). At this year’s American Psychological Association conference, Rapport and Kofler presented a meta-analytic review of twenty-three studies that found overall small or no benefits of these training programs for reducing inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsive behavior for children with ADHD. One reason for this disappointing conclusion is that most of these programs target the wrong parts of working memory: They’re training the short-term memory part, rather than the ‘working’ part of working memory.

Legal Updates on Accommodations


Working with students who have diligently and conscientiously pursued advanced education, despite a learning or physical disability, impels one to provide support and accommodations when justified.  For students who have succeeded in college and graduate school, only to fail licensing and high-stakes exams as a result of denied accommodations, is not only disheartening but unjust.  To this end, there is ‘good news’ in the area of testing accommodations, for those who are documented to be in need.

This has come as a result of a Department of Justice Title III Regulation, in combination with an update to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which recently went into effect in March 2011.  The primary changes are thus:

1) The terms ‘learning, reading, concentrating, and thinking,’ have been added as domains of major life activities. Therefore clients who have dyslexia and AD/HD are more specifically covered under these major life activity domains.

2) Testing boards are asked to ‘give considerable weight’ to documentation of past accommodations or auxiliary aids. While the statute specifically states the ‘documentation’ of past accommodations, it does not specify the form in which this documentation may be provided.  Many students report long histories of both formal and informal accommodations which are not technically documented in their academic record.  However, letters from teachers, professors, tutors, and parents, who have witnessed these accommodations firsthand, may serve as another form of documentation.   This will likely add substantially to the weight of their request for accommodations.

3) The new regulations add protections for those who experience impairment in ‘major bodily functions,’ including digestive, bowel, respiratory, and neurological challenges.  Over these years of providing Psychoeducational Evaluations I have been surprised and impressed by the number of students who struggle with concomitant physical maladies which add to their burden, particularly under standard testing conditions.  It seems fair and humane that this clause was added as well.

The key in all of this is to ensure that Psychoeducational Evaluations are extremely thorough, particularly in the narrative description of the disabilities.  No ‘assumptions’ can be left unspoken while numerous ‘rule outs’ must be overtly addressed.  There is a highly specified skill set required for evaluators who take on the burden, trust, and responsibility of aiding able students in successfully passing licensing exams, as a result of earning necessary accommodations.

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