Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Class bias in NCLB testing

Thanks to Eric Olson of Deep Blade Journal for pointing this essay and test question out to me.

Greg Palast highlights an excellent example of a socioeconomic class bias in a test question. Take a peek:
"The year 1999 was a big one for the Williams sisters. In February, Serena won her first pro singles championship. In March, the sisters met for the first time in a tournament final. Venus won. And at doubles tennis, the Williams girls could not seem to lose that year."

The story says that in 1999, the sisters could not seem to lose at doubles tennis. This probably means when they played

A two matches in one day
B against each other
C with two balls at once
D as partners

Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs. In this sentence, a club is probably a

F baseball bat
G tennis racquet
H tennis court
J country club
The larger issue: fairness. When the questions are inherently biased, how fair is it to mandate testing when the consequences to the school are huge?

Again, I'm not so sure what the clearest solution should be. For now, bringing light on to this subject is the short term solution.