Sterling Ambivalence (sterlingnorth) wrote,
Sterling Ambivalence

A Case Against Reading Test Scores as Evidence of Mental Disparities Among Races

It had always been my suspicion that negative public expectations of ones test performance can do much to hurt ones performance on that test. If true, then the consistant negative expectations of test scores from minorities will serve as negative feedback to the test taker, causing him or her to score lower.

Well, here's the Tampa Tribune with news that researchers may have confirmed my suspicions.

Racial Stereotypes May Affect Test Scores
By ADAM EMERSON, Tampa Tribune Jan 8, 2006
Preliminary research shows even the mention of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test can contribute to the achievement gap.

Last spring, two University of South Florida-St. Petersburg professors tested high school students to see whether expectations could foreshadow performance. What they found prompted a fall return to see whether certain methods could calm students for test-taking.

In their spring study of 81 students at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, Brett Jones and Tom Kellow investigated "stereotype threat," a phenomenon in which students worry their failure might confirm a negative belief about their race.

"People have been talking about the achievement gap so much over the last few years that that could make the stereotype threat worse," said Jones, a professor of educational psychology at USF-St. Petersburg.

The pair selected ninth-grade students, divided them into two groups and gave each group the same test of math skills.

They told members of the first group their performances would show how well they might do on the 10th-grade math FCAT but said nothing about how students of different races might score.

For the second group, the researchers did not mention the FCAT, instead suggesting students' scores would not vary by race.

Black students in the first group scored far worse than white students. In the second group, without any mention of the high-stakes test, black students and white students scored nearly the same.

The results call into question the validity of high-stakes tests because the tests may fail to show how well black students have learned, the researchers wrote.

They go on to say while removing the stereotype will not eliminate the disparity (as many other factors contribute to this), it will ease it.
Tags: race
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