Capstone Project: Impact of Standardized Tests on Minorities

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[. . .] e., Bates, Bowdoin or Mount Holyoke) (Stern, 2009). Clearly, then, the standardized testing paradigm remains firmly in place and identifying ways to help high school students improve their performance on the mathematics and English components of the ACT and SAT standardized tests represents a timely and valuable enterprise. The method that will be used in the proposed study to achieve this end is discussed below.


The proposed study will use a mixed quantitative and qualitative method. The quantitative element will be achieved using a comparison of published ACT and SAT test scores from states such as California for the past 5 years which will be used to evaluate the impact, if any, of gender, cultural, religious, or socioeconomic factors.

The qualitative component will be achieved using a questionnaire with proven validity and reliability that was adapted from an instrument developed by Herman and Golan (2001) to measure high school teachers' views concerning the efficacy of standardized tests in determining student academic achievement and potential and how much pressure they feel to help students prepare for standardized tests and the impact that standardized test preparation time has on non-test subjects and critical-thinking skills. A proforma copy of the questionnaire is provided at Appendix A and the main sections of the Likert-scaled questionnaire are as follows:

1. Section One: Influence of Testing on Teachers' Instructional Planning;

2. Section Two: Class Time Spent on Test Preparation;

3. Section Three: Subject Focus and Its Change over the Last Three Years by Test Score Trends; and,

4. Section Four: School Attention to Test Scores

In addition, the use of primary and secondary resources will also improve the trustworthiness of the study findings. In this regard, Dennis and Harris (2002) report that, "Primary data are likely to be directly relevant to the research, unlike secondary data, which may be out of date or collected for a totally different purpose. Ideally, an effective research project should incorporate both primary and secondary data" (p. 39).

Anticipated results

The results anticipated from the analysis described in the method section of the secondary data above will almost certainly show that there is a negative relationship between income levels and academic achievement in mathematics and English; however, the effects of gender, culture and religion on these standardized tests remain less certain. Despite these constraints, it is generally anticipated that females will score higher on the ACT and SAT mathematics and English components, the two major minorities black and Hispanic will perform less well overall compared to their white counterparts, and that culture and religion will have an impact only to the extent that they reflect parental involvement in schooling.

These anticipated results of the secondary data are also highly congruent with the patterns experienced with standardized testing to date. For instance, Sireci and DeLeon (2002) report that not only do minority students perform less well on standardized tests compared to their mainstream counterparts, they do not understand the implications of these tests on their future as well as their white counterparts. According to Sireci and DeLeon (2002), "Standardized educational tests have important consequences for both minority and non-minority students. However, there are inconsistencies across these groups with respect to their understanding of the importance of these consequences, and with respect to their test preparation activities" (p. 163). Likewise, female American high school students routinely score better on standardized tests than their male counterparts (Muhammad & Smith, 2008).

Finally, it is expected that the results of the administration of the questionnaire to American high school teachers shown at Appendix A will largely mirror the findings in the secondary research to date that indicate growing dissatisfaction with standardized testing and the adverse impact that the regimen is having on the nation's high school students.

Discussion of likely results

When something is made a priority, it is by definition supposed to get better, but the harsh reality is that despite being made a priority decades ago, the nation's public schools are still not adequately preparing young people for the rigors of college mathematics and English. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the problem is that it is not a surprise -- the nation's failing schools have been the focus on an enormous amount of intense attention from educators, educationists and policymakers alike for nearly a century. Furthermore, there are exemplar schools in even the most impoverished communities of the country that succeed and even excel academically so there are obviously models available to serve as best practices for high schools struggling to prepare their students for college and their professional lives. Nevertheless, the problem remains and continues to worsen and many young people spend their first year in college paying for non-credit remedial mathematics and English classes to learn what they should have been taught already, just to catch up with their peers.

Limitations to the study

The main limitation to the proposed study will be the number of respondents available and willing to participate in the research by completing the questionnaire. Although results may exceed expectations, the total number of respondents will likely be under 100, thereby limiting the generalizability of the findings that emerge from the study (Neuman, 2009). In addition, the potential for researcher bias is always present in a research project, ranging from the selection of resource materials to include in the literature review to the interpretation of the qualitative and quantitative findings that emerge (Karimov, Brengman & Van Hove, 2011).

Practical applications

There are growing calls for a standardized college application process in the United States today. These calls are tempered by an ongoing debate concerning the relevance of a continuing role, if any, for standardized tests in the future. For example, Green and Greene (2007) point out that, "Despite the trend toward adoption of common applications, many colleges continue to require supplements and to implement particular requirements on deadlines, various parts of applications, and standardized tests, for example" (p. 28).


The implications of this study will not be earth-shattering because of the limitations that are discussed above, but the proposed study will help identify why so many American high school graduates enter college for the first time so woefully unprepared to write at the college level or complete college-level mathematics classes. More importantly, still, perhaps, are the implications for young people that make the effort to excel in high school, get good grades, and improve their chances of succeeding on the ACT and SAT through tutoring and practice testing. Even for these students, their results are no guarantee of being accepted into the school of their choice, or any school for that matter. As Rubin cautions, "While a weak performance can hurt your chances to land a spot at your top college, even a great SAT score can't guarantee it" (2009, p. 52).

Future directions

Given the demonstrated ability of the ACT and SAT in accurately gauging academic achievement and future academic success and notwithstanding the criticisms that have been leveled against these and other standardized tests in recent years, some useful future directions for research include the following:

Do standardized tests encourage teaching to the test rather than promoting critical thinking skills?

Are there superior assessment methods available to replace standardized testing?

Which specific aspects of the mathematics and English test components cause failing students the most problems? Do these aspects have a cultural or racial basis?

General conclusions

It is reasonable to conclude that the SAT and ACT are here to stay for the foreseeable future, and high school students contemplating higher education will ignore this reality at their peril. The research showed that in spite a numerous criticisms, standardized tests including the ACT and SAT remain the national standard by which students from one part of the country are compared to students from other parts based on a set of questions that are intended to accurately measure academic achievement and predict future academic success. The fact that standardized tests have largely lived up to their expectations in these areas over the years suggests that while some fine-tuning may be in order, students today should prepare themselves for the rigors of college-level mathematics and English by preparing to pass these components of the SAT and/or ACT.


Dennis, C., & Harris, L. (2002). Marketing the e-business. London: Routledge.

Green, H. & Greene, M. (2007, December). Admissions trends to watch: How today's admissions policies, procedures, and developments are impacting students, parents, and schools. University Business, 10(12), 27-31.

Harrigan, J.R. (2012, August 28). Public high schools are not doing their jobs. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from

Herman, J.L. & Golan, S. (2001). Effects of standardized testing on teachers and learning

Another look. UCLA Graduate School of Education Technical Report 334:

National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.

Karimov, F.P., Brengman, M. & Van Hove, L. (2011). The effect of Website design dimensions

on initial trust: a synthesis of the empirical… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Impact of Standardized Tests on Minorities.  (2014, September 8).  Retrieved March 24, 2019, from

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"Impact of Standardized Tests on Minorities."  8 September 2014.  Web.  24 March 2019. <>.

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"Impact of Standardized Tests on Minorities."  September 8, 2014.  Accessed March 24, 2019.