A shocking and disturbing trend that the public has always noted in standardized tests is that minority examinees tend to score lower on standardized tests than their White, male counterparts. This has caused academic scholars to research this topic more to figure out what is preventing minority examinees from doing as well as their White, wealthy and/or, male counterparts and, thus, not having access to some of the same opportunities. These standardized tests consistently put these students at a clear disadvantage and this is counter to the nation’s overall goal to improve diversity in all aspects of life. This essay will discuss specific factors that put minorities at a disadvantage when it comes to standardized tests and postsecondary entrance into programs and will conclude with a set of policy recommendations that can help level the playing field for all candidates.
Structure of Exams
In order to determine whether standardized tests used for college and graduate admissions purposes are actually measuring content knowledge that should, at least theoretically, have been acquired over years of study, I investigated how standardized tests are created. It is important to understand the creation process of standardized tests because if this process is inherently flawed then no one can be sure that the tests are actually measuring what they intend to measure. Previous research suggests that this process may be flawed because we see that disadvantaged students such as minorities and low-income students are not able to do as well as their white, middle-class peers (Arbuthnot 2011, Rizzo 2012, Brigman & Spatig 2010). Although no test will be perfect, it is not unreasonable to expect a test designed to determine whether a student is ready for postsecondary education to be reliable and valid. So this essay will begin by discussing the structure of the exams and flaws embedded within its structure that are not always addressed.
To begin, the standardized test process begins with the design phase. In this phase the developers are determining exactly what the tests should be measuring in order to create items to test this knowledge in the second phase—the development phase. After the items have been created, the test is administered to students who may be taking these tests. At this point, the test could go back to the development phase if developers see that there were issues that need to be addressed or it could continue on to the fourth and final stage: its use. The use stage is when the test-makers determine exactly when the test is used. For instance, the GRE is used for graduate admissions while AP tests are used in order to determine whether a high school student has shown mastery over college level material. Test-makers also think about what the test scores should not be used for so that the validity of the test is not compromised (Arbuthnot 2011).
On the surface, this structure seems to be ideal...