Standardized Tests Truly Reflective of All Students Term Paper

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¶ … standardized tests truly reflective of all students, even those with cultural diversity, limited English, and disabilities?

In order to determine the answer to that question, first standardized tests in general must be examined for their fairness to minorities, those with cultural diversity, limited English and disabilities.

To that end, this paper will first examine the reliability of standardized tests as a fair indicator, focusing primarily on the experiences of African-American students. Taking that conclusion in hand, the paper will then tackle the issue of whether NCLB and AYP are successful in depending on standardized tests to determine both funding and students' and schools' success and failure.

This paper concludes that standardized tests are not at all fair towards minorities - as indicated in the fact that several colleges, such as Holy Cross, are abandoning standardized tests in their admissions processes - and as a result must be eliminated or at least diminished in importance in NCLB and AYP.

Standardized Tests and Bias in College Admissions: Several Case Studies

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This year, the College of Holy Cross joined the list of schools abandoning reliance on standardized tests. The College of the Holy Cross announced last month that students applying for admission beginning in September 2006, will no longer be required to submit standardized test scores. According to a study in Black Issues in Higher Education, applicants may choose not to include their SAT I, SAT II and ACT scores as part of their applications without risking any negative implications at all on subsequent admissions decisions. (Black Issues in Higher Education, 2005)

Term Paper on Standardized Tests Truly Reflective of All Students, Assignment

This decision -- made after several years of study, discussion and serious consideration -- reflects our existing admission policy," says the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, president of Holy Cross. "We have a highly personalized admissions process that already de-emphasizes standardized test scores. In addition, the application process itself is a window into the academic and intellectual life at a college, and we want prospective students to understand that Holy Cross is committed to the holistic education of young men and women." (Black Issues in Higher Education)

Although a momentous change, in some colleges this change may not be as earth-shattering as the facts initially indicate. In fact, admissions decisions at Holy Cross - and many other top notch universities and national liberal arts colleges -- have over time lumped more weight on a student's high school course of study and other qualitative evaluations than on standardized test scores, says Frank Vellaccio, senior vice president, who oversees admission policy at Holy Cross.

We look at the whole student," he says. "We evaluate a student's academic career and consider the choices he or she has made both in the classroom and outside activities. While standardized scores give some snapshot indication of a student's abilities, we are increasingly concerned with the inherent racial and socio-economic bias in standardized testing -- as well as the fact that no test can communicate a student's passions, interests, motivations and achievements." (Black Issues in Higher Education, 2005)

Holy Cross Director of Admissions Ann McDermott adds that when doubts and published reports came up this spring about changes in the SAT and the implementation of the addition of an essay component to the much-maligned test, Holy Cross was entirely sure that it had indeed come time - finally, and once and for all -- to forego the mandatory standardized test.

We see the stress students and their parents experience during test-taking season, as well as the amount of money and time spent in test preparation," Director of Admissions McDermott commented. "Since classroom work, writing and intellectual exploration are more important to Holy Cross, we wanted to send the message that that's where students should be spending their time and energy." (Black Issues in Higher Education, 2005)

McDermott observed that any applicant may opt to submit scores if they believe a standardized test score helps present the fullest picture of their academic and intellectual accomplishments. "We want to put the responsibility of portraying their academic career back into the hands of the student," she noted. (Black Issues in Higher Education, 2005)

At Holy Cross and most other colleges following in its path, international students whose first language is not English will still be required to submit results of the standardized test TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). (Black Issues in Higher Education, 2005)

However, the question of course remains. Will the applicants actually feel secure in not submitting scores given the fact that they may perceive that the schools will only assume negative scores should they not submit? The matter is a bit like silence under the Fifth Amendment - certain assumptions are still made. Perhaps it is more effective for schools to eliminate consideration of the standardized tests altogether so as to provide a completely level playing field.

The seed for the distrust of the standardized test for bias issues was planted as early as 1999. College and testing officials were scrambling to craft responses to the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) policy guidelines published in 1999 that noted in no uncertain language at all that colleges and universities could face legal difficulties if they rely primarily on test scores in admissions and scholarship decisions.

Specifically, in 1999 the Education Department circulated a guide to college officials that says colleges and universities that make decisions based primarily on standardized test scores must show that they also do not violate civil rights and anti-discrimination statutes.

The use of any educational test which has a significant disparate impact on members of any particular race, national origin, or sex is discriminatory," the OCR guide says. (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999)

Education Department officials say the guide, which they released in the fall of 1999, will help education administrators make appropriate - and not excessive -- use of the tests. Department officials said that these guidelines were not new but tried to "capture the existing state of the law," according to Arthur Coleman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for civil rights. (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999)

We reject the notion that excellence and equity cannot go hand in hand," noted Coleman, who says the guide is intended to clarify issues and help colleges to "avoid the litigation and controversy that accompany" issues of affirmative action. (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999) widely publicized study published in 1999 in the journal, Black Issues in Higher Education, explained the rationale on both sides: "This was just the latest installment in the public debate over affirmative action as several states, most notably California and Washington, have passed initiatives prohibiting the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions. Much of the attention has been focused at highly selective institutions like the University of California campuses, where White and Asian applicants complained that they were denied admission to top colleges while minorities with lower SAT or ACT scores were admitted. Moreover, as many states move to increase the use of assessment tests in elementary and high schools, the debate has ensued over the legitimacy of testing and the disparate impact on women and minorities." (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999) And as we know, the debate has continued well into the 21st century as well.

But college officials noted in 1999 that without college admissions tests, it would be difficult to differentiate between the thousands of high schools in the country - this issue, as we noted above, has been handled in various different ways; for instance, Holy Cross has made the tests optional.

I don't know anyone who admits on test scores alone," commented Rae Siporin, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of California-Los Angeles, in 1999. "We look at a whole range of criteria such as how rigorous the course work is. But I would hate to throw away information that gives some measure of what's going on in a student's educational experience." (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999)

Siporin observed at the time that the debate really should be focused on improving the educational experiences of all students in elementary and the secondary grades. (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999)

Do we say the test is bad," Siporin asked, "or does it mean that these students are not getting the same education background that these other students are getting." (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999)

The courts have not been spared the argument since 1999 as well. The new directive also appeared to support the position of plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by minority college students in California. The eight students claimed the University of California-Berkeley showed bias against them by using standardized test scores in the admissions process. (Black Issues in Higher Education, 1999)

But a conservative organization commented in 1999 that the OCR policy could prompt a legal challenge if left to stand. The Center for Equal Opportunity, a critic of race-sensitive admissions in higher education, "may consider legal action against the guidelines," commented Roger Clegg, general counsel for the Washington-based organization. (Black Issues… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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