Spending Extra Time With Barton Balistreri ‘19
By Katherine Mottola '19
June 2019 Profile Issue
“You’re so lucky,” the most common phrase uttered in response to anyone’s admittance that they have extra time.
“I know right,” their usual response. But these people typically don’t feel lucky. Yes, they might be thankful for it, but not because it offers any kind of relaxation or buffer time while taking tests.
Until I had extra time, I struggled to finish almost every assessment. My parents quickly became jaded with my insistence that I was getting C’s because I couldn’t finish, and I get it. It sounds like an excuse. But I understood the material, and I had studied. For years I felt like maybe hard work just didn’t pay off, despite staying up until 1 or 2 am to work on homework and study; I just couldn’t seem to do well on tests. Receiving extra time, in this way, was a godsend, a pat on the back, an assurance that I did understand the material, but my brain just needed a little more time to use it. That’s not to say that getting extra time gives me an upper hand over those without it; those with accommodations have them because their brains, for various reasons, just need more time to do a task that others could do quicker.
Similar to my experience is that of Barton Balistreri, class of 2019. Though he was “diagnosed with ADHD in early 4th grade, and [had been] on medication for when [he] came to SSSAS in 6th grade,” he continued to struggle in school.
Without extra time, his relationships with his parents and teachers were strained. After a while, it’s just easier to look at low test scores and attribute them to laziness or a lack of understanding. Yet Barton was working as hard as he could to focus and finish tests; even with medication he couldn’t. Grade school is a time when we’re still growing, trying to figure out who we are and where we belong. Add onto that the anxiety of never being able to complete assignments in the allotted time, and learning self-assurance becomes that much harder. For Barton, “Getting extra time helped significantly in every aspect of my life from my grades to stress levels to relationships with teachers. I felt much more comfortable and able in the classroom, and that promoted self-confidence at a very unstable time.”
For those who don’t know him, Barton is incredibly easygoing and talkative; I’d be surprised to meet a single person at SSSAS who’s never had a conversation with him. We were both captains of the swim team this year, and I always noticed how he made an effort to talk to all the underclassmen. I’ve also had classes with him on and off throughout high school, and can personally attest to the fact that he almost always participates in class. He isn’t afraid to ask the teacher for extra help when he needs it, and even organized a study session before our AP Psych midterm this past year, and on top of his new confidence, he found that the frequent “arguments with [his] parents about grades and homework… diminished because [he] wasn’t helplessly struggling with almost every test or assignment.”
Because we’re lucky enough to have faculty who are accommodating, and people like Ms. Sellon who make sure anyone, regardless of needs, are given help if they need it, there isn’t much of a stigma against kids who need extra time at SSSAS. In 2012, only 2% of test takers had accomodations on the SAT, while at St. Stephens, it’s not uncommon to have multiple people with extra time in a single 12-person class. In Barton’s and my AP Psych class, for example, there are at least four people with extra time - about 27% of the class. It could be that St. Stephens is just more… forgiving with who they give extra time. Yet throughout my conversation with Barton, one idea came up repeatedly: extra time isn’t a leg up, but a way to level the playing field.