LSAC Accommodations, Part 4: The controversy (Part 1) — Score Flagging

    The four parts of this series are:

    The issue of accommodated testing is a challenging one for many reasons. From the thousands of requests that the Law School Admission Council receives each year, the council must determine, on a case-by-case basis, which applicants should get special accommodations, and what accommodations are appropriate. Over the past few years these issues have been getting more attention, as the council has defended a number of lawsuits based on claims about how the LSAC deals with such requests.

    One particularly controversial issue concerns LSAC’s practice of distinguishing test scores achieved under accommodated conditions; this practice is known as “flagging.” Last September, California passed legislation specifically banning LSAC from flagging students for whom special accommodations were authorized. Within days after the bill went into effect in January, LSAC filed suit in objection to the brand new legislation. LSAC’s complaint was based in part on the fact that the law singled out the council, despite the fact that the LSAT is not the only standardized test whose special accommodation scores are flagged. Additionally, LSAC asserted issues of free speech, arguing that the council has a legitimate interest in providing schools with the most accurate information available.

    The California court’s initial ruling: a preliminary injunction on enforcement of the ban, so for now, LSAC’s practice of flagging can legally continue, and LSAC doesn’t have to worry about the fine of $750 per instance that was to be implemented with the new legislation. The court said the ruling was based not on LSAC’s free speech claims, but rather on very specific nature of the new legislation. While the state lawmakers should seek to protect against discrimination, the judge ruled, legislators should not so specifically target a single entity without a very good reason for doing so.

    The question of whether flagging should be allowed to continue is a difficult one. LSAC seeks to maintain the reputation of the LSAT as an accurate predictor of law school success, and to provide law schools with the most accurate information possible. On the other side of the argument are those who receive special accommodations, and worry that their applications might not get equal consideration if their LSAT scores are flagged.

    Read Part 2 of this post here.