A recent article in the Chicago Tribune put me immediately on the defensive for my ADHD students. Here's a short summary.
The state of Illinois administers the ACT as part of its annual standardized testing battery for all students. The state pays for the exam, but students are able to submit their scores to colleges if they choose. The gist of the Chicago Tribune story is that an unusually large number of students in wealthy school districts are receiving test accommodations which allow them extra time on the state ACT administration. While the author doesn't submit any hard evidence of students faking ADHD diagnoses, with parental and school support, in order to gain an advantage, the article strongly implies that moneyed families are gaming the system.
Unfortunately, the belief that cheating to receive accommodations is rampant seems to appear everywhere, both among students and parents. No matter that there are very, very few documented cases of this sort of abuse, those few cases, paired with a belief that accommodations of any sort are unfair, serve to prejudice far too many adults and teens against students with diagnosed learning disabilities.
The truth is that many students who have undergone thorough evaluation and received a learning disability/ADHD diagnosis still do not receive accommodations. I work with students regularly who clearly qualify for assistance and do not receive it, either from their schools or from the ACT/College Board. Also, many who qualify don't opt to use their accommodations because they want to "do it on their own." A few cases of abuse don't make a rule.
The most concerning element of this article is not the small potential for overdiagnosis and abuse, but the underdiagnosis that regularly occurs in lower income districts. Some of those districts had no students receiving accommodations at all. Students who need testing can't get it through their schools, and parents have neither the funds nor the knowledge to ensure their children are tested privately. The damage to these students who fall through the cracks is far more significant than any nefarious behavior from a few unethical students. Let's put the emphasis on helping kids who need it, rather than ferreting out the few cheaters.