Racial Bias in the SAT

Topics: SAT, Standardized test, Educational Testing Service Pages: 5 (1792 words) Published: June 30, 2014
Racial Bias in the SAT
Since the 1950’s the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has been an important assessment tool for college admissions to consider. Today the test is composed of three sections including math, reading, and writing. There is controversy surrounding the reliability and validity of the test as there is a large white-black scoring gap. The purpose of this paper is to prove the presence of a racial bias against blacks in the SATs. I will do this by talking about the history of the test, relative research and findings, and the future of the test.

I.Purpose and History of the SAT

After World Word 1 a Princeton University psychologist by the name of Carl Brigham thought of the idea of creating an aptitude test after partaking in the creation of the Army IQ test, now known as the ASVAB. The acronym SAT stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test and was first purposed as a standardized way of measuring mental ability. The first SAT was given in June 1926 and administered by the College Board who still runs the test today. Over the years the SAT proved able to foreshadow a student’s ability to perform academically in college. Because of this Brigham suggested the SAT should be an aptitude test and not a mental ability test. ( Widening, 2005) It was not until the 1950s that he SAT’s become an important element in the college admissions process. The President of Harvard University at the time, James Conant thought the SAT could be used to distinguish between students who could benefit from a college education from those who lacked abilities. Today, the SAT is still one of the factors looked at by college admission boards. The test measures analytical skills, reasoning and thinking, contains 138 questions, and each section is measured on a scale from 200-800. . ( Widening, 2005)

Since the creation of the SAT there has been a black-white scoring gap. The College Board published an analysis in 1976 based on the differences in scores based upon race on the test stating that the average white score was 20% higher than the average black score. Throughout the 1980s the gap had gone down 189 points. The positive trend was soon halted as the gap began to open up again in 1989 and has not gotten smaller since. The black overall SAT score in 2005 was 864 and in 1988 it was at 847. . ( Widening, 2005)

I.Research and Findings
As you can tell by the history of the test the, SAT has been under scrutiny for quite some time now. Today more than 2 million students take the test annually. Today the SAT consists of ten different sections including three critical reading, an essay, math, writing and all of them being multiple choice. It is the most commonly used standardized test for college admission boards, and roughly 90% of colleges require an applicant to submit an ACT or SAT scores. (Ibram, 2005) The Educational Testing Service ( ETS) is a nonprofit organization that creates, administers, and scores standardized tests. A man by the name of Roy Freedle worked for the ETS for years studying various standardized tests and the way in which they were scored. Freedle decided to study the SAT, which he viewed as a meaningful measuring tool, yet believed it contained flaws that could be corrected. At the time the ETS had stated that ruling out bias within the test was a priority. Freedle began research into the test and learned about differential item functioning( DIF). DIF, which is also known as a measurement bias, occurs when people from different groups with the same trait have a different probability of giving a certain response on a test. (Matthews, 2003) Freedle was most interested in the verbal section on the SAT and how different races produced different results. To study this the test takers were split into groups by their score from 200-800. These groups were then studied to determine how test takers with different ethnic backgrounds had scored on each item of the test. To do this he used DIF and found that...

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Matthews, J. (2003, November 1). The Bias Question. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 4, 2014, from https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2003/11/mathews.htm
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