Every year, kids undergo thousands of dollars worth of cognitive assessments to figure out if they can get accommodations on standardized tests. The results? 4-5% of students take the SAT with extra time accommodations.
But what happens once a student secures testing accommodations? What happens to the transformational amount of cognitive data that is being created on our students?
For most students, this treasure trove of data is all but wasted. With college admissions as competitive as it is today, the focus is often on immediate results - ie. the instant attainment of testing accommodations. In the process, we’re missing the true potential of the data we collect on these cognitive assessments. We’re missing out on the chance to lead our students down a path of self-discovery and self-mastery.
Take Isabel Jackson, a junior in high school from Washington, DC. Though a hard-working and dedicated student, Isabel has struggled to keep up with school assignments.
“I’ve always had trouble keeping what I read straight in my head,” Isabel said. “It makes it hard to complete a lot of my work.”
Isabel’s struggles with reading comprehension extended to standardized testing. Her parents had her undergo a neurocognitive evaluation to see if she had a learning disability that would qualify her for a testing accommodation. She did not.
“Even though we got a whole cognitive profile after doing the evaluation, we never really looked into it,” Isabel said. “We just moved on to cramming for the SAT.”
For students like Isabel, this is a chance wasted.
30 years of advancements in the fledgling field of Learning Sciences have allowed for the creation of assessments that can identify areas of cognitive strength and weakness. A cognitive report can give a student in-depth knowledge of their complex reasoning abilities, memory, executive functions, and processing speed. Using this information, these tools can then produce recommendations, study strategies, organizational tips, memory tricks, suitable majors, and career paths.
A neurocognitive test could tell a student that has high visual reasoning and memory that they should read important content more than once and try to visualize the words and descriptions in that text. They should give every character a face and every fact a mental photo.
Helping a student understand what learning strategies best suit their cognitive profile allows them to develop metacognitive abilities that will aid them in standardized testing, schooling, and beyond. They gain the tools to become an eternal learner, ones capable of approaching any problem and breaking it down in a way digestible to them.
Though testing accommodations are an important tool for students with disabilities, they are only part of the equation in a neurocognitive evaluation. So much more can be gained by approaching neurocognitive reports holistically and making them more accessible and digestible to students and parents alike. We have the opportunity to teach a new generation of students how to learn. Not just standardized test tricks or facts from a textbook, but how to approach any problem they encounter.