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Standardized Testing: Does It Contribute to the Academic Achievement Gap?

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In the era of increased educational accountability, students are expected to demonstrate a level of proficiency on state administered, standardized tests. The purpose of this presentation is to address standardized testing issues surrounding the academic achievement gap among African American students. Research has demonstrated that placing students in certain academic tracks merely on their standardized test scores can have negative effects on students’ ability to excel in the classroom. The presenter will address other concerns, such as stereotype threat, that African American students face while taking high stakes test which can lead to poor performance.

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Standardized Testing: Does It Contribute to the Academic Achievement Gap?

  1. 1. Standardized Testing: Does It Contribute to the Academic Achievement Gap? James M. Thompson, PhD Lancaster County School District The State of the African American Male Conference Third Annual Fall Conference – November 6, 2009 Closing the Achievement Gap: Student Achievement and Success University of South Carolina Lancaster
  2. 2. Agenda <ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Policy Implication </li></ul><ul><li>Literature Review </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Academic Achievement Gap </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stereotype Threat Theory </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul><ul><li>Q/A Session </li></ul>
  3. 3. Background <ul><li>Academic achievement gap is broad </li></ul><ul><li>Narrowing the gap between various groups </li></ul><ul><li>Social accountability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>African American men </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>12% of U.S. population </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>41% of incarcerations (US Department of Justice, 2007) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>School accountability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High drop out rate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Failing to meet the needs of all students </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Policy Implication <ul><li>No Child Left Behind (2001) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All students performing at the proficiency level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some students tend not to do well on standardized tests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No excuses </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Academic gap </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who is to blame? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where is the solution? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Will the gap ever narrow? </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Academic Achievement Gap <ul><li>Accountability is important for school systems to determine their current state and to make necessary improvements. </li></ul><ul><li>In corporate America, companies are expected to meet its goals and objectives or increase the bottom line in order to satisfy stakeholders. </li></ul><ul><li>In education, school systems are also held to high standards to meet adequate yearly progress according to NCLB . </li></ul>
  6. 6. Academic Achievement Gap (cont.) <ul><li>The gap continues to plague African American students. </li></ul><ul><li>According to a research study, African American students average reading scores on the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was at least 22 points less than Caucasian students. </li></ul><ul><li>The average math scores were at least 23 points less. </li></ul><ul><li>Drop out rates 10.4% for African Americans compared to 6% for Caucasians </li></ul>
  7. 7. Academic Achievement Gap (cont.) <ul><li>Placed into special education classes based on poor performance on standardized intelligence tests </li></ul><ul><li>Larry P. v. Riles (1979) – California judge outlawed the use of IQ tests for placement purposes or academic tracking (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 1999) </li></ul><ul><li>Other ethnic groups of students were not given IQ tests to determine academic placements (Ornstein & Levine, 2006) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Academic Achievement Gap (cont.) <ul><li>IQ tests has received fair amount of criticisms based on the racially and culturally bias nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Students who do well on standardized tests have developed a set of skills. </li></ul><ul><li>Some African American students are at a disadvantaged based on cultural and economic barriers (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 1999). </li></ul><ul><li>Placement in gifted and talented classes </li></ul>
  9. 9. Stereotype Threat Theory <ul><li>According to Steele (1997), stereotype threat is “the event of a negative stereotype about a group to which one belongs becoming self-relevant, usually as a plausible interpretation for something one is doing, for an experience one is having, or for a situation one is in, that has relevance to one’s self-definition” (p. 616). </li></ul><ul><li>For negative stereotype to have any threats toward African American students, it must first of all have some relevance to them. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Stereotype Threat Theory (cont.) <ul><li>Some examples of negative stereotype threats regarding African American students: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not intellectual or inferior to other ethnic groups </li></ul></ul><ul><li>As a result, African American students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do not devote adequate effort to school. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Believe academic success is a farfetched goal to achieve </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lack of response to education and ultimately resulting in school dropout </li></ul>
  11. 11. Stereotype Threat Theory (cont.) <ul><li>Mayer and Hanges (2003) conducted a research study on the effects of stereotype threats on test achievement with 62 African American and 90 Caucasian undergraduates from a Mid-Atlantic university. </li></ul><ul><li>2 x 2 between subject design in which participants were informed they were taking a test to measure intelligence (stereotype threat variable) or perceptual ability (non-stereotype threat variable). </li></ul>
  12. 12. Stereotype Threat Theory (cont.) <ul><li>Findings indicated that African American students “who are told a test is diagnostic of intelligence experience more stereotype threat related to that test” (p. 228). </li></ul><ul><li>African American students are already defeated prior to entering into a testing center. </li></ul><ul><li>On the contrary, Mayer and Hanges (2003) found African American students perform just as well as Caucasian students when they were informed that the questions were non-evaluative or non-threatening. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Stereotype Threat Theory (cont.) <ul><li>Similarly, Steele (1997) found similar results when he informed African American students that they would have to take a standardized tests. </li></ul><ul><li>When African American students were informed that the test was not going to measure intellectual abilities, they were just as intelligent as Caucasian students. </li></ul><ul><li>It demonstrated that African American students were insecure and perceived the testing situation as a negative stereotype which overpowered their self-confidence. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Social Alienation and Disidentification <ul><li>Some African American students equate being intelligent and studious as attempting to be white (Crawford, 2002; Viadero & Johnston, 2000) </li></ul><ul><li>Not identifying with a school’s academic culture </li></ul><ul><li>Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need: love, nurture, support, encouragement, belonginess </li></ul><ul><li>School climate, environment, and arrangement may not be inviting to parents. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Social Alienation and Disidentification (cont.) <ul><li>Some students excel in certain teachers’ classes but not in others; they feel out of place. </li></ul><ul><li>Idolize in the athletic arena but not encourage to do excel in the classroom </li></ul><ul><li>Negative teachers’ expectations for certain students to do well </li></ul><ul><li>What happens when the academic field is leveled? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Teachers: Things to Do <ul><li>Get off of your high horse </li></ul><ul><li>Meet them where they are and bring them to where they need to be </li></ul><ul><li>Teach to the standards and the rest will follow </li></ul><ul><li>Integrate differentiated learning strategies into your lesson plans </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid relying on the “one size fits all or the universal approach” in teaching </li></ul>
  17. 17. Teachers: Things to Do <ul><li>Make all students feel welcome regardless of their background </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid showing favoritism to certain students </li></ul><ul><li>Establish and maintain a great rapport when your students’ parents as early as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Have a special night to showcase your students’ work/portfolio </li></ul><ul><li>Set high expectations for all students </li></ul><ul><li>Never accept failure as an option (No ‘0’ Policy) </li></ul>
  18. 18. Teachers: Things to Do <ul><li>Go above and beyond to let your students know that you care about them </li></ul><ul><li>Be firm, fair, and consistent </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage and build your students up </li></ul><ul><li>Do not dumb down the curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>LOVE WHAT YOU DO! </li></ul>
  19. 19. Conclusion <ul><li>Gaining a greater insight and having more research regarding the impact of stereotype threat </li></ul><ul><li>Using alternative methods for placement of students into special education programs </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting students diverse learning needs by incorporating various instructional strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Assisting students in their self-confidence and perspectives regarding educational attainment </li></ul>
  20. 20. References <ul><li>Crawford, Q. L. (2002). The attitudes of rural eight grade Black males toward academic learning and its impact on academic achievement. Doctoral Dissertation, South Carolina State University. </li></ul><ul><li>Mayer, D. M., & Hanges, P. J. (2003). Understanding the stereotype threat effect with “culture-free” tests: An examination of its mediators and measurement. Human Performance , 16 (3), 207-230. </li></ul><ul><li>Ornstein, A. C., & Levine, D. U. (2006). Foundations of education (9th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. </li></ul><ul><li>Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist , 52 , 613-629. </li></ul>
  21. 21. References (cont.) <ul><li>Thernstrom, A., & Thernstrom, S. (1999). Black progress. In C. H. Foreman, Jr. (Ed.), The African American predicament (pp. 29-44). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Viadero, D., & Johnston, R. C. (2000). Lifting minority achievement: Complex answers. The achievement gap. Education Week, 19 (30). </li></ul><ul><li>US Department of Justice: Office of Justice Program. (2007). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2006 (NCJ Publication No. 217675). Washington, DC: Author. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Question and Answer Session <ul><li>Contact Information </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. James M. Thompson </li></ul><ul><li>Email: </li></ul><ul><li>Web Site: </li></ul>