Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Impact of Mandated Standardized Testing on Minority Students

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Impact of Mandated Standardized Testing on Minority Students

Article excerpt


One of the original reasons for the introduction of mandated standardized tests was to reduce the effects of patronage and thereby open educational opportunities and a range of occupations to a wider population of students (Madaus, 1991). However, in recent years, considerable attention has been given to the potentially damaging effects of such tests on curriculum and instruction (Madaus, 1991; Madaus & Kellaghan, 1992; National Commission on Testing and Public Policy (NCTPP), 1990). For example, Smith and Rottenberg (1991) report that mandated testing at the elementary school level resulted in (a) reduced time for instruction, (b) the neglect of non-tested curriculum content, and (c) increased use of test-like preparation materials. Similar results have been reported by other educational researchers (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 1992; Koretz, Linn, Dunbar, & Shepard, 1991; Shepard & Dougherty, 1991; Smith, 1991; Winfield, 1990).

Though many researchers have speculated that the negative impact of mandated testing is more severe for minority students than for other students, little attention has been devoted to examining these negative effects as they relate specifically to minority students, significant numbers of whom, particularly those who reside in the inner city, are at risk of failure and/or dropping out of school (NCTPP, 1990). Much of the literature on testing and minority students deals with decisions based on test performance, but some research has focused on the probable sources of differential performance such as language, social, and cultural factors (e.g., O'Connor, 1989). One impact of mandated standardized testing on minority students cited by a growing number of researchers is its role in the denial of opportunities to minorities (e.g., Oakes, 1990). As some of these observers claim, because standardized tests reflect the majority culture, minority student performance on them may not yield a fair representation of what these students really know and can do, given their economic and educational disadvantages. This unfairness (a) makes minority students ineligible for courses necessary for higher education; (b) tracks them into groups emphasizing basic skills, rote memorization, the use of test-like problems in class activities, and extensive test preparation rather than higher level thinking skills; and ultimately (c) causes them to drop out of school in large numbers. Moreover, as Koretz et al. (1991) report, some teachers of minority students tend to focus their mathematics and reading curriculum on content specific to the mandated test, thereby limiting the range of instruction made available to minority students to a purely immediate, functional level.

The present study examines the nature and extent of the impact of mandated testing programs on minority students' opportunities for and access to quality curriculum and instruction in mathematics and science. This research is part of a larger study on the impact of mandated standardized and text-supplied tests on curriculum and instruction in mathematics and science. Three strands comprise the larger study: (a) a national survey of teachers, (b) site studies in six large urban-centered school districts, and (c) a materials analysis of the best-selling textbook series, text-supplied tests, and standardized achievement tests. The results presented in this article have been drawn from all three strands of the study but are restricted here to include only mandated standardized tests.


Evaluation of Mathematics and Science Tests

The six standardized test batteries that dominate the U.S. testing market in all 50 states were reviewed at grades 4, 8, and high school,(1) using a review protocol based on recommendations of the leading proponents of the reform movement in science and mathematics (e.g., American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989; Mathematical Sciences Education Board, 1989; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), 1989; National Research Council, 1989; National Science Teachers Association, 1992). …

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