Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools

By Lois Weis; Michelle Fine | Go to book overview

WALTER HANEY


Chapter Three
Testing and Minorities

INTRODUCTION

Standardized tests have often been used to the disadvantage of racial, ethnic, and language minorities in the United States. Standardized tests have not always worked to the disadvantage of such groups, but because of many instances in which tests have been used to deny opportunities to minorities or to depict them as somehow inferior or less able than majority individuals, standardized testing has often been viewed with suspicion, if not downright opposition, by many minority individuals. In this chapter, I review how this situation has come to be and describe the concepts of bias and fairness, which are deeply intertwined in issues of standardized testing and in particular with how standardized tests are used with and affect minority groups and individuals. In conclusion I explain why, despite many statistical studies indicating an absence of test bias defined in terms of differential validity for minority versus nonminority individuals, many uses of tests may be unfair or biased against minorities in the nontechnical meaning of these terms. First several explanations of terminology and territory are needed.

Regarding terminology, the phrase standardized test is used to refer mainly to tests of cognitive skills, which have been systematically developed and are administered so that examinees are given the same directions, questions, and time limits. To be standardized also means that a test's results are scored in a standard or uniform way. While most standardized tests in the United States at present are paper-and-pencil and multiple choice in format, the term standardized test also includes open-ended exercises (as in an essay

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