Overview and Introduction: Testing and Assessing African Americans: "Unbiased" Tests Are Still Unfair

By Ford, Donna Y.; Helms, Janet E. | The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Overview and Introduction: Testing and Assessing African Americans: "Unbiased" Tests Are Still Unfair


Ford, Donna Y., Helms, Janet E., The Journal of Negro Education


This special issue includes seven articles concerning strategies for overcoming barriers in standardized testing as it pertains to African Americans. Most of the articles focus on the effects of testing in educational settings or on related educational experiences of test takers. Three of the articles focus on alternatives to standardized testing for students with special or exceptional needs (gifted college students or students with learning disabilities or emotional-behavior disorders). Two focus on historical and recent efforts to overcome the limiting effects of testing on employment opportunities for military personnel and potential teachers, respectively. The remaining two articles search for explanations for why policy mandates concerning testing have had such negative implications for the educational experiences of African Americans. Collectively, one message threads through the articles: testing innovation does not seem to have changed the nature of test usage, and African Americans of all ages in educational and vocational settings continue to be harmed by assessments. Debates about test bias and fairness are on-going, particularly in this era of high-stakes testing. At the same time, the testing industry continues to assert that newly created tests and revisions of old assessment tools are culturally sensitive. Why then do supposedly 'unbiased' tests remain unfair?

Keywords: standardized testing, African Americans, test bias, test fairness

As we write this introduction to the special issue of The Journal of Negro Education on "Testing and Assessing of African Americans: Past, Present, and Future Problems and Promises," the Teachers' Union in the Chicago public school district, the third largest district in the United States, is on strike. The primary catalyst for the strike was city administrators' insistence that teachers' merit pay and continued employment be tied to evaluations of their performance, defined in large part as improving students' scores on (presumably) standardized tests of cognitive abilities, intelligence, and academic skills. To date, school districts across the country are embroiled in controversy over the appropriateness of using students' test scores as an indicator of the quality of teachers' performance, a clear violation of good testing practices (Rothstein, Ladd, Ravitch, Baker, et al., 2010). Also questionable and objectionable is the use of test scores to determine African Americans' potential when issues of test bias and unfairness abound.

Although the circumstance of using someone else's test scores (e.g., students) to evaluate another person's (e.g., teachers) knowledge, skills, or abilities is peculiar to public school educational systems, the use of people's own tests to determine life options is pervasive in U.S. society. Therefore, to cite just a few examples, some of which the contributors address, test scores are used to determine whether: (a) students will be promoted to the next grade level; (b) students receive high school diplomas; (c) students receive special education or gifted education services; (d) applicants are admitted to institutions of higher education; (e) potential workers are selected for certain occupations or job openings, including those who have successfully graduated from college with teaching degrees; (f) employees are promoted once they enter the workforce; and (g) university graduates are permitted to practice in their areas of expertise, even if they have successfully completed the requisite education.

To the layperson, use of test scores in any of these individual situations might seem reasonable. That is, the widespread acceptance of tests in such diverse roles is predicated on the assumption that tests objectively measure something of importance about the person, such as cognitive abilities, academic abilities, and employment skills that generalize to or will be useful in other situations. This presumption is particularly problematic for African Americans across the lifespan because historically, as a group, they virtually never have obtained scores as high as their White counterparts in the same settings (see Helms, 2008). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Overview and Introduction: Testing and Assessing African Americans: "Unbiased" Tests Are Still Unfair
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.