Cultural and Racial Bias in Standardized Testing

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Cultural and Racial Bias in Standardized Testing

By | April 2008
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In the United States the test-taking industry is a multibillion dollar practice. In the 1960’s testing companies began to exert a strong influence over education. Their salesmen convinced many school districts that multiple-choice achievement tests were the best way to rate student performance. They also persuaded the federal government that these tests were the best way to measure the progress of students in special programs like Chapter 1. In the 1980’s several major reports concluded that many children were not learning much in the nation’s schools. Instead of taking a comprehensive look at education and trying to reform it, standardized tests became more important. They began being used to evaluate programs, schools and entire districts. By 1987 more than 100 million standardized tests were given each year in the nation’s classrooms. (Steering Committee) Standardized tests are thus a cornerstone of the American public school system. Starting as early as preschool, they are designed to measure student’s intelligence, aptitude and ability to retain knowledge. These tests can very well determine a student’s future in the school system. For example the SAT-1s play a huge role in college acceptance. Yearly IQ and assessment tests can be the deciding factor in student placement. However, they are rarely as valid as they claim to be. They have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be incredibly biased towards students of different, race, gender, ethnicity and economic status. With biased and often ludicrous questions they do very little to determine the worth of a child. Also, fixation on these tests deflects attention from fundamental educational issues and problems, thus hindering reform and necessary change. As Edmund Holmes wrote in 1778 “as we tend to value the results of education for their measurableness, we tend to undervalue and at last ignore those results which are too intrinsically valuable to be measured.” (Kornhaber & Orfield, pg 93) This paper...