Saturday, September 29, 2012

Unfair Assessment Advantage?

I recall taking ACT tests and others from the standpoint of college entry. We would take them several times to get scores up as high as possible. My high school offered a class to assist in that goal. So, if the results of these tests reflect general learning and academic performance, it would seem that the extra preparation would skew the scores. After reading Sackett, Borneman, and Connelly (2008), I changed my perspective somewhat.

Sackett, Borneman, and Connelly (2008) discussed common concerns about cognitively loaded tests that give advantage to one gender or racial group. Sackett, Borneman, and Connelly concluded a few ideas of personal interest. First, coaching did affect scores but to an insignificant extent. Another particular conclusion of interest was the author's assertion that minorities are disadvantaged and that although the mean scores for some minority groups are lower, the disadvantage is realized only if the test scores are used as the sole basis for college admission or employment. I have a difficult time buying that particular rationalization. Sackett, Borneman, and Connelly note, however, that differences in the average results between groups does, in fact, translate to test bias. If such bias exists, it is critical that it be resolved. If a test question does not allow a person of particular racial identity or gender the ability to demonstrate their authentic capability or understanding, then I perceive it as a biased question, consequently, a biased test.

Sackett, P. R., Borneman, M. J., & Connelly, B. S. (2008). High stakes testing in higher education and employment: Appraising the evidence for validity and fairness. American Psychologist, 63(4), 215-227. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.4.215

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