Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Standardized Testing/Socioeconomics

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Superior Race In Intelligence, Or Biased Testing?[edit | edit source]

By Wendy Belgrave

Learning Targets[edit | edit source]

  • Understand how standardized testing can be biased
  • Understand how social factors influence success

Introduction[edit | edit source]

We have all heard the stereotype. We can’t get away from it. The word is out, in schools and movies all across the nation and maybe even all over the world. The word is that Asian students are smarter than everyone else. Racial gaps in standardized tests show this to be true, but could there be more to that? Could it be that these tests could be biased, or could there be other social factors involved?

I Want The Asian In My Group[edit | edit source]

Mission San Jose High School in Fremont California is considered one of the best public schools in the country. This school raises the controversial question since 75 percent of the students are Asian (CNN 2008). The principle himself admits that he believes that the success of his school is directly associated with the Asian population. According to the CNN, the top 5 schools in California are majority Asian. They also say that Asian students score higher than their white peers, nationally Asians lead in grade point average, and are more likely to take higher level math courses.

With these statistics on hand, what does the principle at Mission San Jose think about our controversial question? His direct belief as to why that is… “The parents come from a system where they all teach for a test.” Hazel Marcus, a Stanford University Cultural Psychologist says that Asian students are not naturally more intelligent than other students, and that there are no biological or genetic differences in between races. An Asian student at Thomas Nelson Community College commented, “It’s our parents. My parents push me more on subjects like math and science. My parents aren’t so bad, but I have friends whose parents push them really hard (VU 2008).” Since there is nothing physical that makes Asians smarter, maybe the question should be, are there other factors involved?

Asian and white students saw their scores increase this year, by 5 and 4 points, respectively, across the three parts of the SAT. Score averages for minority groups other than Asians were down by 6 to 8 points across the three exams (Inside Higher Ed 2008).

Check out this website to view the CNN special on "Are Asians Students Smarter".

Biased Perhaps?[edit | edit source]

With the Asian students aside for a bit, let us now ask the question. Could the standardized tests be biased? The bias does not necessarily target one race or culture; it could affect many at a time. What about the student that is struggling to learn the language, the student that becomes overwhelmed by the pressure of a timed test, or the student whose parents cannot afford the luxury of hiring a tutor specifically for the purpose of SAT testing. What about the little girl in Alaska who is asked to fill in the blank about trees; Trees are ____. a) short b) food c) green. I do not believe that test makers are purposefully trying to make the test biased, but it may just be a difficult task to make a test that fits all lifestyles and cultures.

Blame It On Social Status[edit | edit source]

One commentator Jonathan Pollard had this catchy subtitle, “Standardized tests are great at ensuring that poor kids become poor adults.” He blames the “poor schools” for spending money on standardized tests taking materials instead of using the money to hire better teachers. He also believes that standardized tests do not test intelligence but “tend to focus on short term memory and actual test-taking ability rather than genuine understanding (Pollard 2008). Many complain that to close the academic achievement gap, money must be spent more equally in lower class school districts.

Although some may be able to blame social status on poor test results, others such as Hazel Marcus states that education in prized in most Asian cultures and “academic success is a child’s duty to his family. It is your job, it is what you are supposed to do to bring honor to your family; to be educated (Marcus 2008).” My Asian friend agrees, “Social status has nothing to do with the drive to educate yourself, it is not just luck, it is the ability to make good decisions. There are many people out there that do it every day (Vu 2008).”

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

So the age old question remains, are Asians more intelligent than other people? No. More disciplined? Some may think so. But regardless of what people may think, every person has a chance to become educated here in the United States regardless of race, or gender. There may be factors that may put some people ahead but regardless of that, it cannot stop a person from being important. Martin Luther King is a perfect example of what society might say is not good enough. “Martin Luther King Jr., considered one of the greatest orators in history, scored in the third quartile, or below average, on the verbal portion of the Graduate Record Exam, a standardized test taken to get into graduate school (Facts on File, 1999).” Martin Luther King's example cautions against overreliance on standardized tests as a measure of students' potential.

Multiple Choice[edit | edit source]

1. What does the principle of Mission San Juan High School attribute his school’s success to?

A) Good after school programs

B) Great teachers

C) The majority Asian population

D) Strict rules

2. According to Inside Higher Ed, how many points on average did minority groups other than Asian drop?

A) 1 to 2

B) 3 to 4

C) 4 to 5

D) 6 to 8

3. What social factors do you think cause poor grades and testing scores?

A) Lack of qualified teachers

B) Poverty

C) Violence in schools

D) All of the above

4. What can a standardized test not tell you?

A) The potential of each student

B) What the students have learned during the school year

C) What the students needs to be taught

D) What subjects need to be emphasized

Answers[edit | edit source]

1. C

2. D

3. D

4. A

References[edit | edit source]

Cooper, A. (n.d.). You Tube. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2008, from

Inside Higher Ed: The SAT’s Growing Gap. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2008, from

Pollard, J. (n.d.). Standardized Testing: Poor Teaching for Poor Kids. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2008, 2008, from

"Racial Differences in Test Scores (sidebar)." Issues & Controversies On File 12 Mar. 1999. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services. 21 Oct. 2008 <>.

Vu, Jeffrey. Personal Interview. 23 Oct. 2008.