Education Testing -- Disparate Impact THIS! Low test scores show lack of knowledge or ability, not racism. DON'T bias the tests against high scorers.
The central question is this: Does educational testing unfairly discriminate against minorities?
Bill Clinton's Dept. of Education (Office of Civil Rights, or OCR) has teamed up with his Dept. of Justice in a racially-motivated assault on test scores. The Clinton administration has unilaterally defined poor test scores among minority students as having a disparate impact, and -- through convoluted logic -- has declared that education test scores which show a difference between whites and students of color constitute proof of racism in achievement tests.
Consider a spelling and reading test. If a "purple" kid fails a reading and spelling test, but a "green" kid passes the same test, is that racism? Is that unfair advantage? Clinton and his rainbow cabinet assert that illegal discrimination -- racism -- is the most likely explanation for the difference in test scores.
Largely absent from the story told by Clinton's spin-meisters is the obvious question: If minorities are performing so poorly on educational tests, might this not indicate that the low-performing group has not taken the trouble or exercised the academic discipline necessary to pass the tests? Might their failure indicate that their families and peers do not support academic achievement? Indeed, is academic achievement itself a racist concept?
Nonetheless, Clinton's Dept. of Education plowed ahead and offered "guidelines" which essentially amount to a threat: Schools who dare to continue using standardized tests on which selected racial and ethnic groups perform poorly will lose their federal funds.
SAT: Being politically astute, the SAT folks jumped on the bandwagon with their ill-fated "strivers" formula which penalizes high-scoring students.
TEXAS: In Texas, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills tests (TAAS) are intended to ensure that Texas students actually demonstrate knowledge and skills before they are promoted to the next grade. Sadly, but not surprisingly, this practice has been attacked as "racist" because the TAAS "flunks" 20% of minority students but only 10% of non-minority students. But is this difference due to intentional racism, or is it due to complex social factors including family environment and parental guidance over which the educators have little or no control?
SAT Introduction: Columnists' Analyses
Low Score: Press Angst Over Standardized
Tests (Oct. 1999)
Not to worry, the OCR told journalists who bothered to inquire about the document. The
guide, a draft four years in the making, broke no new legal ground, the office said. No
big deal. Because many journalists bought this line they didnt cover the story. As a
result, most readers first heard about it not through news stories, but via op-ed pieces
mostly written by anti-affirmative-action conservatives. (By James B. Kelleher in
Columbia Journalism Review Sept./Oct. 1999)
PBS 'Frontline' Flunks in
Story on SAT (Larry Elder 11/05/99 - no link)
Elder offers this useful analogy: "Imagine a college track coach who seeks to recruit runners from high school. Rather than including speed times on the application, runners simply state the order in which they finished their high school races. Thus, the applicant from the New Jersey high school, for example, tells the college track coach that he finished first in 17 consecutive races. Another applicant tells the coach that he finished third in the Nebraska state final.
"Whom should the coach pick? Obviously, the track coach does not have a clue without an objective measurements -- a stopwatch. So think of the SAT as an academic stopwatch, however flawed.
"The 'Frontline' special kept out inconvenient facts. Poor Asians, for example, do better on the SAT than do middle-class whites. Black high school students in Barbados, an island nation that experienced slavery, average 1,300 on their SATs. PBS recently aired a documentary on the performances of high school blacks and whites in suburban Cleveland. Despite the income equality [in these neighborhoods], black students performed worse than their white colleagues.
"At the end of the hour, a simple unasked question remained. If the SAT reeks of unfairness, privilege, and lack of usefulness, why does virtually every college and university require it? No law mandates its use. But do the 'experts' have a substitute? No, unless one is comfortable with "We have no fixed weights in our scoring processes. We have no formulas. We depend upon the trained professional judgment of our readers...'
"Face it, the anti-SAT folks want the test eliminated. It clutters the goal of
the romantic, race- and gender-proportionate, color-coordinated society. Oh, what
the heck. How about a lottery?" (Larry Elder, in Human Events, 11/05/99)
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