Seven ways tests mislead us, and more

In 1972 I spent considerable time interviewing individuals and groups of young children in order to learn more about how they went about solving test questions on standardized tests. My interest was spurred by the discovery that my fluent bookworm son did badly on a 3rd grade test, and that the students who left our cozy 4-room Pre-K to 3rd grade mini-program at PS 144 were scoring poorly in 3rd grade. I knew virtually nothing about tests until that experience. I was a good test-taker and assumed such tests were good at detecting my talents.

I was stunned by what I learned. I wrote a publication.  Here’s the link:

It holds up well. I documented the work, based on tape recordings done during the interviews.

I found 7 types of biases that favored children—

1. whose home and neighborhood used Standard English.

2. who have a specific type of middle class experience with life.

3. with fairly conventional, conforming and uncreative thinking patterns.

4. who mature early, especially in terms of verbal skills.

5. who think and work quickly.

6. who are emotionally and socially secure under competitive and judgmental pressures.

7. who have been subjected to certain methods of teaching.

As I reminded parents later, they were also biased in favor of children whose curriculum accidentally coincided with some of the particulars on the test, just plain gamble’s luck, and finally on their state of mind on that day.

It’s worth reading the original article I wrote for City College.  To see it CLICK HERE

It’s still true–and more. Note that testing prep wasn’t common in 1973–and considered cheating. Test takers warned against it in no uncertain terms. Prepping would, they said, undermine the purpose of the tests. Forty years later I find myself impressed with myself!

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3 Responses

  1. You are really an amazing person, Deb. I am “impressed with yourself” too 🙂
    Much love and gratitude for you you teach and have taught us.

    • My vote for the number one ceietrlby liar of all time goes to Harry Connick Jr. It’s not only bad enough that he pretends to come from New Orleans, when in fact he’s a native of Weston, Connecticut, but that he has taken it to the extreme of involving himself in Katrina charities and even appeared as a special reporter for the Today Show during that terrible time. For those who care: His real father was never the DA of New Orleans! Connick Sr is or was one of the presidents of Sony Music and a stockholder in Sony Pictures. I wonder why more folks from New Orleans haven’t picked up on these big, show business lies.

  2. […] Seven ways tests mislead us, and more « Deborah Meier on Education […]

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