You’d think we could fix this within the educational system somehow – the disparagement that shows up on tests. We give it a ton of lip service, but it just keeps going.
The existence of racial patterns on SAT scores is hardly new. The average score on the reading part of the SAT was 429 for black students last year — 99 points behind the average for white students. And while white students’ scores were flat, the average score for black students fell by one. Statistics like these are debated every year when SAT data are released, and when similar breakdowns are offered on other standardized tests.
Here’s the rub . . .
But what Freedle found in 2003 has now been confirmed independently by the new study: that some kinds of verbal questions have a DIF for black and white students. On some of the easier verbal questions, the two studies found that a DIF favored white students. On some of the most difficult verbal questions, the DIF favored black students. Freedle’s theory about why this would be the case was that easier questions are likely reflected in the cultural expressions that are used commonly in the dominant (white) society, so white students have an edge based not on education or study skills or aptitude, but because they are most likely growing up around white people. The more difficult words are more likely to be learned, not just absorbed.
It’s not only difficult words, but common words that just aren’t used in some households. My information here is anecdotal, but first first benchmark I was asked about a common noun. I was asked enough times that I know it was troublesome. I was surprised. While it was a word I don’t use often, I do use it. I’ve read it. It’s the first noun I think of for that particular thing. For the student, it was lack of experience with the word.
There is a continuum of scores on the SAT for all groups that I’d love to take a closer look at to consider the reasons for each.