Assessing Basic Academic Skills in Higher Education: The Texas Approach

By Richard T. Alpert; William Phillip Gorth et al. | Go to book overview

Preventing Test Bias in the Texas Academic Skills Program

Joan M. Matthews

Many years ago at one of our public universities, I counseled a Black nursing student who was bright but having difficulty passing the teacher-made tests in one of her classes. I looked at the items on her last exam. One striking example went something like this:

Which activity would be appropriate for a patient recovering from kidney surgery within his second post-surgical week?
A. a game of badminton
B. a ten-mile drive in the country
C. a card game with three other friends
D. none of the above

The student answered D--none of the above--because she understood (and she was quite right) that the principle of a successful recovery requires quiet, sedate activities. So she eliminated badminton because of the running and stretching, driving because of the dangers of sudden swerves or stops, and card games, which was the correct answer, because, she said, they often could get wild. "I know now what my teacher wanted," she said, "but where I come from, card games can be pretty exciting."

This is a clear example of bias in testing.


Defining Problems and Goals

In Texas, with the development of the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP), bias became everyone's concern. We are a tri-ethnic state where minority citizens are expected to become the majority within very few years. At the beginning of the next century, there will be more Hispanics in Texas than any other group. To complicate the issues, Texas has what we believe to be an unacceptable minority

____________________
Joan M. Matthews is a director of the Texas Academic Skills Program of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

-19-

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