27 mars 2012

Culturally biased tests (Critical Guide, E.D. Hirsch Jr)

   A phrase expressing the claim that many standardized tests, such as the SAT, are culturally biased. The claim arises from the fact that different cultural groups perform differently on the tests. 

   The argument for bias is based on the following two correct premises: the innate abilities of the different cultural groups (as with all large groups) are similar; the groups have experienced similar schooling. From these two premises can be derived the conclusion that, since the innate abilities and the schooling of the groups are similar, and since the test results are dissimilar, the tests must contain hidden bias. The argument is reasonable, but it does not exhaust the logical possibilities, or even the probabilities. For instance, different cultural groups might attain different levels of actual achievement from the same schools if their home cultures have not prepared them for mastery of the school-based culture and the subjects taught within it. The differences in group performance on tests raise two distinct questions:

   1. Are the tests themselves technically biased? (If so, everyone agrees they must be changed.)

   2.If the tests are not technically biased, what policy decisions should be taken in light of the different group performances on the tests?

   As described by the American Psychological Association, technical bias is indicated by a consistent difference between the way a group performs on a test and the way it performs on some real-world criterion that the test is meant to measure. Most current standardized tests are free of technical bias in this sense-which leaves open the policy question regarding what to do about different group performances on these tests. Blaming unbiased tests for bias is not a plausible solution. (See also "Culturally biased curriculum," "Individual differences," and "Intellectual capital.") 

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This was an excerpt from Hirsch's great book on education :
The Schools We Need 
 and Why We Don't Have Them.
Recension by Richard Askey :  

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