Test Center eases implementation of accommodations
November 16, 2018
Students who receive academic accommodations now have a reliable place to take proctored tests. After the Test Center opened this fall, Anne Lamppa, assistant director of student accessibility and test center coordinator, is continuing to adapt the space to work for all students.
“I want it to be a comfortable place for them that they feel good about coming to,” Lamppa said. “The service part of it has mattered most to me so far.”
The Test Center, in operation for the first time this semester, has inhabited the former Emeriti Office on the second floor since August. Director of Student Accessibility Lesley Levy helped plan the center to replace the old system, under which students and professors often had to make accommodations with few established options.
“It varied greatly where professors were able to find those spaces which were lower distraction,” Levy said.
Before the Test Center opened, students took tests in a variety of spaces around campus. Because most Bowdoin classrooms are used throughout the day, students with accommodations—such as time-and-a-half, double time or low-distraction environment—usually took tests in their professors’ offices. A few other options existed in Kanbar Hall and Moulton Union, but tests in such spaces were not proctored. The new space has standardized the amenities available to students.
Scheduling in the Test Center is done on an individual basis. Students with accommodations speak with their professors, who then schedule testing times through Lamppa. Students may also schedule directly if they wish.
The Test Center is equipped to meet a variety of educational needs, with noise-cancelling headphones, adjustable desks for students in wheelchairs and a room with text-enlargement and dictation software. The privacy of such a room is important.
Lamppa is excited about the opportunity to make use of new accessibility technologies. Her long-term goal is for anyone to be able to take a test without hindrances.
“When I worked at Oberlin [College], this would have been amazing,” she said. “I think we’re setting ourselves up to be ready for any student to have a reasonable testing environment.”
The Test Center is not only for students who receive accommodations; professors may also use it for make-up exams when students miss a test due to illness or an absence from an approved athletic or other school-related trip. The space is also available as a study space on weekends and on weekdays after testing hours.
“It’s really well-lit and conducive to good studying,” said Levy.
The space is not, however, meant to be an option for finishing tests that end up taking longer than planned. It instead focuses on pre-organized accommodations.
Both Lamppa and Levy have noticed an increasing demand for the Center and anticipate that it will continue to grow. Even so, the process is still running smoothly. Every student who has requested to use the Center thus far has been worked into the schedule.
“We haven’t turned down one person yet,” Lamppa said. She estimates that 400 hours of testing have been proctored already this year.
Still, Lamppa and Levy see room for improvement. For example, it can be taxing for Lamppa, as the only full-time staff member, to proctor every test.
In addition, Levy recognizes the importance of the center’s enhanced adaptability.
“When we first envisioned [the Test Center], I think we imagined a lot of bluebook tests. But not all are like that,” she explained. “Some tests, for example, have a PowerPoint piece to them that’s a certain block of time, so it’s not always as straightforward.”
The Center is currently looking to hire additional part-time staff. Administrators also plan to solicit feedback from faculty and students about how the Center has been useful and why professors who have not utilized it have made that decision. These efforts are part of the ongoing drive to improve the functionality of the Test Center as it continues to be used by more students in the future.
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