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inquiry project proposal

eheller's picture

For my project, I would like to look at the issue of culurally-biased questions on standardized tests and how they affect the scores of minority students. This question was sparked when I observed the 3rd-graders at my placement reading the book "100 Dresses", a book I had read in my own 3rd grade class. This book was written in the 1940's and is about a white girl being teased by her classmates because she is poor and wears the same dress to class everyday. The students had trouble remembering the old-fashioned, traditionally white names, such as Peggy and Maddie and struggled with words in the book that had no relevance to their lives. I then called my sister about this and she told me that her urban students struggled with the questions on standardized tests because of their cultural bias. She gave an example of the question "What color is a banana?". Though the answer may seem obvious, some students who are poor may not have access to fresh fruit or what they do have is not ripe, so they may say a banana is partially brown. Some students may be used to plantains instead, so they would say that a banana is green. 

I would like to look at different kinds of tests (state tests, SATs, etc.) and the various ways the questions may be biased. I would also look at statistics about how different ethnic or socioecinomic groups perform on standardized tests, and how much of these score differences can be attributed to culturally biased questions. Finally, I would like to examine what is being done about this issue and how tests can be changed so they are fair for all students.


jccohen's picture

test bias


Great set of questions, and I think you'll find some interesting material about all this.  One strategy would be to check out what ETS and other testing folks are themselves saying about this.  Stan Karp is also a guy who writes about assessment issues and I think has written about this.  And keep in mind that your sisters and other teachers are also a legitimate source of anecdotal data.

qjules's picture

This is a really cool idea/

This is a really cool idea/ area to research! Im excited to hear about what you find.