Are Educational Evaluations in U.S. Schools Truly Reflective of the Ability of Culturally Diverse Students? Term Paper

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¶ … Educational Evaluations in Culturally Diverse U.S. Schools Today

An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Standardized Evaluations in Culturally Diverse U.S. Schools Today

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Today, the primary goal of education in the U.S. is an education that fosters the intellectual, social and personal development of virtually all students to their highest potential. In order to obtain this goal in a diverse classroom environment, a culturally sensitive teacher recognizes that cultural conventions inform their own approach to teaching, as well as to inform the student's approach to learning. Teaching diverse cultures is growing in the U.S. And is an important learning process of all students in all cultures. Cultural is central to learning; in fact, not only does culture shape the thinking process, it also defines modes of communicating and receiving information. A diverse classroom clearly calls for a teaching style that takes these differences into account. For example Marcus (1999) points out that, "A pedagodgy that ignores these fundamental differences gives an unfair advantage to students from the 'mainstream,' while alienating those with diverse backgrounds" (p. 1). The thesis of this study is that in years past, U.S. schools did not have to consider teaching to many culturally diverse students; however, in today's schools, this has become a major concern for educators. American educators today are accommodating culturally diverse students to the best their ability; however, evaluations still do not accommodate culturally diverse students. Testing and evaluations are standardized and are not accurately reflective of the highest potential of culturally diverse students. Therefore, identifying the salient issues involved in providing culturally sensitive curricula has assumed a new urgency today. To this end, this paper provides a review of the scholarly and peer-reviewed literature, followed by a discussion of the findings, and a summary of the research and relevant recommendations in the conclusion.

Review of the Literature

Background and overview.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Are Educational Evaluations in U.S. Schools Truly Reflective of the Ability of Culturally Diverse Students? Assignment

There are a number of significant changes sweeping across the American landscape that are having profound implications for educators. In spite of some recent improvements, many members of racial and ethnic minorities continue to experience higher rates of unemployment and are more likely to be underemployed than their whites counterparts; as with older adults, this demographic group is also continuing to grow in terms of their percentage of the population (Doverspike, Mckay, Shultz, Taylor, 2000). According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (2000, cited in Growe et al., 2002), minority students now comprise more than 37% of the total American public school population in 1998, an increase of 15% since 1972. Clearly, the continuing rise of minority students means that the educational system must be prepared to meet the learning needs of a culturally diverse population (Growe, Henry, Perry & Schmersahl, 2002).

The same processes that are taking place in the United States, though, are at play all over the world. For example, in his book, Beyond the National Curriculum: Curricular Centralism and Cultural Diversity in Europe and the U.S.A., David Coulby (2000) reports that there is an enormous change taking place in the global economy; at once, it is becoming more internationalized and more centered on knowledge, a shift that has been characterized by one observer as: "At the end of the twentieth century, we are living through one of these rare intervals in history. An interval characterised by the transformation of our 'material culture' by the works of a new technological paradigm organised around information technologies" (Castells, 1996, p. 29, cited in Coulby, 2000, p. 60). Whenever there are changes in the economy, it is reasonable to expect that there will be corresponding changes in society and education, but many critics of standardized testing suggest that America's schools are failing to maintain pace with the changes that are taking place in the larger society in which they exist (Artiles, Higareda, Rueda & Salazar, 2005), and these issues are discussed further below.

The Bane of Standardized Testing in a Culturally Diverse Nation.

In the 20th century, two models of school practice have dominated American educational theory; each of these theories was based on somewhat different goals and conceptions of the teaching and learning process. The first, termed the "cultural transmission" approach, places emphasis on socializing young students into a uniform pattern and culture; this approach has been associated with traditional school policies and practices and emphasizes standardized and regimented curricula. The second educational approach has been closely identified with progressive education and emphasizes the individual and personal nature of education and proposes diversity in goals and methods (Bowman, 1994). Both of these educational models have been applied to the education of poor and minority students, students most frequently regarded as being at risk of failure.

These efforts have not been without purpose or effect, certainly. The performance differences between racial and ethnic groups on standardized tests, including the SAT (from the Educational Testing Service) and its counterpart, the ACT (from ACT, Inc.) have been analyzed extensively both in academic journals and in the popular press. According to Zwick (1999), "Researchers, social theorists, and politicians have offered an array of reasons for these score differences, ranging from socioeconomic, cultural, linguistic, and genetic factors to test bias" (p. 320).

The controversy, though, has not been restricted to the reasons for the differences in performance because even the issue of determining which groups are advantaged by standardized tests is less straightforward than it first appears (Zwick, 1999). According to this author:

In the popular press, the existence of bias in admissions tests is typically assumed to be demonstrated by the persistent pattern of differences between racial groups in average test scores. The idea that score differences are sufficient evidence to establish bias is reflected in the original language of the California standardized testing legislation that is currently under consideration. According to the initial version of the bill, "a test discriminates . . . If there is a statistically significant difference in the outcome on test performance when test subjects are compared on the basis of gender, ethnicity, race, or economic status. (Zwick, 1999, p. 320).

Another example of the view that score differences are sufficient evidence for test bias have been posted on a Web site provided by Time and the Princeton Review, a test preparation company; according to one post, "Studies show persistent . . . race bias in both the SAT and the ACT. . . . The SAT favors white males, who tend to score better than all other groups except Asian-American males" (cited in Zwick, p. 320). Complicating matters, though, is the manner in which the results of these standardized tests are used. For example, when academic researchers analyze the accuracy of the SAT relative to ethnicity, they do not generally rely on the average scores achieved by each ethnic group; rather, researchers typically examine another aspect of the test results concerning how well these tests predict college grades for each group. Researchers have determined that using the SAT to predict first-year college grade-point averages (GPAs) results in a more positive prediction for black and Latino test-takers than is warranted by their actual performance; in other words, the predicted grades tend to exceed the actual grades achieved by these groups (Zwick, 1999).

Although the SAT tests, and to some extent the ACT as well, have been subjected to a growing amount of criticism in recent years concerning the selectivity of the test-taking population involved, shifts in measurement techniques over time, and so on, other tests have also shown significant declines in academic achievement, suggesting that the qualitative test performance results provided by the SAT may be more accurate than some observers have suggested. Some insights into recent trends can be discerned from Figures 1 and 2 below which reflect the performance of 17-year-old students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

As can be clearly seen from these figures, academic performance by minority students has declined in recent years, with only moderate gains being enjoyed by Latino students and otherwise flat performance by whites; African-American students, though, continue to experience a serious drop in test scores in all measures. Burtless points out that these tests are taken by a representative sample of the school population and are therefore not subject to the same constraints as the SAT; however, Burtless also points out that tests from other countries have provided similar results, with American students consistently achieving lower scores compared to students in a wide range of countries and failing to catch up with those students over time (Burtless, 1996).

Figure 1. Reading Achievement of Seventeen-Year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.by Race and Ethnicity, 1971-90.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (1995) cited in Burtless, 1996, p. 50.

Figure 2. Science Achievement of Seventeen-Year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress by Race and Ethnicity, Selected Years, 1970-96.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (1995) cited in Burtless, 1996, p. 49.

Some proponents of standardization have argued that, in an egalitarian society, all students should have the same educational opportunities, and this goal… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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