Educational Practice Essay
Soc 164 Final Paper Guidelines • • Page Length: 5 pages Double-spaced, 1” margins, 12 point font 1. Select a school practice, policy, or program of your interest: –Educational practice (i.e. tracking, standardized testing, labeling) –Educational policy (i.e. school choice, affirmative action, IDEA, AB540/131) –Educational program (i.e. GATE, AVID, Upward Bound, Bilingual Education) 2. Search through academic literature for: • Related controversies – all the different positions around it (where applicable; some topics don’t lend themselves to oppositional approaches) and • Its historical development –if you can find information about it (for this part you can also use non-academic sources, even Wikipedia –only for this part!!) 3. Evaluate this policy/practice/program by discussing its relevance to/impact on issues of educational inequality. Outline your paper as follows, with clearly labeled sections I-V, described below: I. Introduction (1 page) a. Introduce your topic –Define and explain the policy/program/practice i.e. “This essay is engaged with the highly controversial issue of school choice. School choice refers to the ability of the parents to choose the school…” If you have information about how it emerged, this is the place to include it. b. Conclude with a thesis statement that summarizes your argument (i.e. how does this program/policy/practice relate to educational inequalities; does it alleviate or does it exacerbate inequality?). i.e. “Given the apparent injustice entrenched in the policy of school choice, I argue that this policy further disadvantages low-income students….” You need to have a clear, straightforward thesis/argument/position. II. Discussion (4 pages) a. Review the literature (academic articles of peer-reviewed journals ONLY) that address this topic and discuss the various perspectives about it. b. Look at scholarship that supports as well as critiques this issue if you want to make your paper more interesting, but direct the discussion so it will conclude towards your position/thesis statement. If you cannot find or don’t want to include contradictory literature it’s OK -some topics don’t lend themselves to critique. c. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Evaluate this policy/practice/program for its impact on the issues we covered in this course (educational inequalities, race/class/gender, school stratification, equity, social reproduction, class advantage, privilege). Make sure you use concepts and terminology drawn from scholarly work. d. Aim for paraphrasing than using direct quotes. The latter usually needs more work with grammar and syntax and it can adversely affect your writing. Be sure to cite these sources within the text and in your references section at the end of your paper (using the ASA format). III. Conclusion (One short paragraph) a. Summarize what you did in this paper. b. Make suggestions for improvements in this policy/practice/program towards the goal of social justice and equity. IV. References or Works Cited a. On a final page, cite the sources used within your paper, including both academic sources and non-academic sources (if you used any). b. Required Number of References: 5 academic articles (1-2 articles from the class and 3-4 from outside academic sources), plus additional non-academic sources if you want. c. Use ASA style consistently. d. Make sure your references are in alphabetical order. Copyright of Educational Leadership is the property of Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 2013, 12(2), 7–19 ISSN 1443-1475 © 2013 www.iejcomparative.org Hiding behind high-stakes testing: Meritocracy, objectivity and inequality in U.S. education Wayne Au University of Washington, Bothell This paper analyses how high-stakes, standardised testing became the policy tool in the U.S. that it is today and discusses its role in advancing an ideology of meritocracy that fundamentally masks structural inequalities related to race and economic class. This paper first traces the early history of high-stakes testing within the U.S. context, focusing on its deep-rooted connections with eugenics and IQ testing in schools. It then turns to the more recent history of high-stakes testing, highlighting the ways that race and class inequality, as well as the ideology of meritocracy, manifest in the United States today as part of a legacy of inequality. Keywords: high-stakes testing, inequality, meritocracy, standardised testing, assessment subjectivity High-stakes, standardised testing has become ubiquitous in the United States, where, since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act (United States Congress, 2002), all U.S. states were mandated to test public school students in grades 3-8, and once in high school, be tested in reading and math, with future provisions for students to also be tested in science. High-stakes, standardised testing has only gained more traction in the U.S. with the Obama Administration’s “Race To The Top” initiative, and the impending implementation of national standards vis-à-vis the Common Core (Karp, 2010). In this paper I examine how high-stakes testing became the policy tool in the U.S. that it is today and discuss its role in advancing an ideology of meritocracy that fundamentally masks structural inequalities related to race and economic class. I begin here by tracing the early history of high-stakes testing within the U.S. context, focusing on its deep-rooted connections with eugenics, social engineering, and social efficiency vis-à-vis school tracking. I then sketch the more recent history of high-stakes testing, highlighting the ways that race and class inequality, as well as the ideology of meritocracy, manifest in the United States today as part of a legacy of inequality. 7 Hiding behind high-stakes testing A U.S. APPROPRIATION OF A FRENCH INVENTION High-stakes, standardised testing in the United States itself began as a recontextualisation of an assessment tool from another country: France. Originally, French psychologist Alfred Binet first developed the IQ test in 1904 to assess if young children were mildly developmentally disabled, producing the “Binet Scale” of intelligence. By dividing the mental age by the second (chronological age), the idea of “intelligence quotient,” or IQ was born (Gould, 1996). According to Gould (1996), this testing was to be used specifically on young children only, and it was conceived purely as a practical tool for placement not related to any idea of hereditary or innate intelligence. However, U.S. cognitive psychologists like Henry Goddard, Lewis Terman, and Robert Yerkes recontextualised Binet’s testing and measurement of IQ in very specific ways that fit the race and class politics of the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Mainly they distorted the original use of the tests and injected their own underlying presumptions about humans and human ability, presumptions that had very little to do with Binet (Au, 2009b; Gould, 1996). Through the work of these psychologists, and with the explicit support of educational philanthropists like Carnegie (Karier, 1972), IQ in the United States became conceived of as hereditary and fixed, laying the groundwork to use standardised testing to justify the sorting and ranking of different people by race, ethnicity, gender, and class according to supposedly inborn, biologically innate intelligence (Au, 2009b; Gould, 1996). In 1917, as a psychologist and Army Colonel in charge of the mental testing of 1.75 million recruits during World War I, Yerkes worked with Goddard, Terman, and others to develop the Alpha and Beta Army tests to sort incoming soldiers and to determine their “mental fitness”. Yerkes drew several dubious conclusions using this incredibly large pool of data, including that the intelligence of European immigrants could be judged according to their country of origin: The darker peoples of eastern and southern Europe were less intelligent than their fairer-skinned, western and northern European counterparts, and that African Americans were the least intelligent of all peoples (Giordano, 2005). As Karier (1972) explains such testing had deep seated bias built-in: Designing the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, Terman developed questions which were based on presumed progressive difficulty in performing tasks which he believed were necessary for achievement in ascending the hierarchical occupational structure. He then proceeded to find that according to the results of his tests the intelligence of different occupational classes fit his ascending hierarchy. It was little wonder that IQ reflected social class bias. It was, in fact, based on the social class order (pp. 163-164). With the explicit support from these psychologists, eugenicists of the time rallied around the idea that race mixing was spreading the supposedly inferior intelligence genes of African Americans, other non-white peoples, and immigrants (Selden, 1999). It is important to note that, among others, African American educators were acutely aware of the racism inherent in both the eugenics and IQ testing movements in the U.S. For instance, in 1940, W.E.B. DuBois recalled: 8 Au It was not until I was long out of school and indeed after the (first) World War that there came the hurried use of the new technique of psychological tests, which were quickly adjusted so as to put black folk absolutely beyond the possibility of civilization (as quoted in Guthrie, 1998, p. 55). Indeed, as Stoskopf (1999) explains, the lower scores of African Americans were regularly used to track Black students into vocational education or for White teachers to explain away any difficulties these students might be having in their classrooms. One of the earliest African American educators to publicly challenge the findings of prominent psychologists involved in the IQ testing and eugenics movements was Horace Mann Bond—the Director of the School of Education at Langston University in Oklahoma. In 1924 Bond critiqued IQ testing and eugenics in Crisis, the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Despite resistance from African Americans and others in the United States, standardised IQ testing soon found its way into the institution of education, and thus gave rise to systems of academic tracking. As Tyack (1974) explains: Intelligence testing and other forms of measurement provided the technology for classifying children. Nature-nurture controversies might pepper the scientific periodicals and magazines of the intelligentsia, but schoolmen found IQ tests an invaluable means of channeling children; by the very act of channeling pupils, they helped to make IQ prophecies self-fulfilling (p. 180). Then a Stanford University professor of psychology, and under the sponsorship of the National Academy of Sciences, Terman played a key role in adapting the above mentioned army tests into the National Intelligence Tests for school children in 1919, and by 1920 over 400,000 copies of these tests had been sold nationwide. Terman and others also created the Stanford Achievement Test in 1922, and by late 1925, he reported sales of this test to be near 1.5 million copies. Further, a 1925 survey of 215 cities with populations over 10,000 found that 64% of these cities used intelligence tests to classify and sort elementary students, 56% used the tests to classify and sort junior high school students, and 41 did the same for high school students. Another survey of superintendents of school districts in cities with populations over 10,000 people, completed in 1926, produced similar results (Chapman, 1988). By 1932, 112 of 150 large city school systems in the United States had begun to use intelligence testing to place students into ability groups, and colleges had also begun to use these tests to justify admissions as well (Haney, 1984). As Karier (1972) explains: It was men like Thorndike, Terman and Goddard, supported by corporate wealth, who successfully persuaded teacher, administrators and lay school boards to classify and standardize the school’s curriculum with a differentiated track system based on ability and values of the corporate liberal society (p. 166). The “values of the corporate and liberal society” to which Karier refers speaks to the ways that standardised testing was seen as a key to liberal notions of individual equality. Fundamentally, early standardised testing in the United States was viewed as providing a completely objective and value free measurement of human intellect 9 Hiding behind high-stakes testing (Au, 2009b). This view then extended into the logics of how such testing was used. For instance, early creators of the SAT exam, a test often used for entrance into U.S. universities, saw this as a way to challenge entrenched class privileges that gave the rich advantages in attaining higher education. The logic being that a test that objectively measured individuals would give everyone a fair and equal chance at getting to college according to their individual hard work and merit (Lemann, 1999; Sacks, 1999). The presumed objectivity of standardised testing was similarly applied to school structures in the United States. For instance, educational leaders such as John Franklin Bobbitt thought that schools should be structured to prepare students for their future social roles, and to do so would be to bring schools in line with the ideas of “social efficiency”—that is, for schools to sort children efficiently for their presumed futures either as rich or poor, owners or labourers (Au, 2009b; Kliebard, 2004). Further, Bobbitt (1912) and others thought that structuring U.S. schools like industrial factories, with students as the raw materials and teachers as the assembly line workers, was the best way to achieve their goals. Once again, such thinking was based on the assumptive objectivity of standardised testing, for if the measures of students were accurate then students would be given an education appropriate for their role in society and the economy (Au, 2009b; Kliebard, 2004). Consequently, as discussed above, the assumptive objectivity of standardised testing was thus used to “scientifically” declare the poor, immigrants, women, and non-whites in the U.S. as mentally inferior, and to justify educational systems that mainly reproduced extant socio-economic inequalities. MODERN-DAY HIGH-STAKES TESTING IN
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