Biased Questions on Standardized Tests


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Occasionally in my job I proctor standardized tests that are given to every student in the state. This job is usually pretty uneventful- as a proctor, you simply read the directions to the students and then keep an eye on them. Our students test in a big empty cold gym that is filled with row after row of students, busily filling in bubbles to prove that they have learned something after years of public education.

I’ve written before about how I have personally observed bias on standardized tests- read my entries Liberal Teachers To Students- Play God, Bloomfield Hills Schools Sticking with Leftist Curriculum, Students Accept Majority Tyranny, The Liberal Bias of Government Mandated Tests, I have been Black-Listed, Thoughts after Grading AP Government Exams, Black Listed, and Working on the Standards.

The real tragedy with biased standardized tests is that students who are conservative or right or even moderate will have trouble with the tests not because they lack knowledge or smarts but because they will reject the premise of the question or the agenda of the reading.

During the last test I had a kid wave me over when I was wandering up and down the rows, and I knew him to be a smart kid, so I came over to him and asked him what he needed, figuring he needed a new pencil or something.

“How do I answer this question,” the smart young adult asked me, “when I don’t buy into the premise behind it?” I read the question that he was pointing to, and saw the problem. The test was a reading test where the students would read from a document and then answer a series of questions. The reading that had this student troubled was a selection about the early industrial revolution, in which factory owners are portrayed as evil and government officials are portrayed as good, and the questions asked students to glorify the government officials and demonize the factory owners.

It was a tad biased of a selection, so I just leaned over to the student and told him- “I see what you mean, it is a tad slanted, but just write down the answer that the grader is looking for- I’m sure the next one will be more moderate or maybe even slanted right for balance.”

“The next question is even worse,” he said, and had me read the next selection. The second reading that students across the state had to read and then respond to was a story about the gold rush, in which prospectors are characterized as mad and irrational and wrong for seeking to make a lot of money in mining. The selection made it seem as if anyone who was an entrepreneur or anyone who had a dream was wrong, and not someone to be encouraged or supported, and the attached question that students were to respond to asked them to justify those assumptions.

“Or read this one,” the young student said. The third and last selection that students had to read and respond to was a history article about the War with Mexico, in which the US is portrayed as the enemy and the bad guy, including language about how the US had no justification at all for invading Mexico, and about how the Mexican army were the hero’s for simply defending their homes from the big bad US, and several individual Mexican’s are specifically named as hero’s while all the US soldiers are just characterized as faceless bad guys. The response question was designed to have students write about how things can be viewed from another perspective- a worthy goal, but since most students lack any knowledge of the other side of this issue and are fed one angle in the prompt, the question is set up to have students simply justify the question’s agenda that the US is bad and Mexico is good.

Shaking my head, I repeated my earlier advice, “Just write what the grader wants you to say.” The student was disgusted, and did so, but I can’t imagine he gave it his best effort or put 110% into the writing of those essays.

Originally posted at A Conservative Teacher.

  • Thanks for sharing this with your readers. It just clarifies one more reason why our two daughters were home schooled.

    In direct response to the questions on the test, I can not understand why the liberals want to skew history to make our country look like it is evil. Do they not understand that it is the “evil” that allows them to have the freedoms they now have? Do they not care that if our country was working as they think it should, that they would not have those freedoms? I don’t understand their thinking at all.

  • LD, they think America IS evil. They also hate life, family, faith, and above all, Truth. They simply aren’t grounded in reality.

  • That’s interesting Matt, its been a number of years since I was in the classroom. I do have two sisters who teach in senior high and they keep me informed. I know revisionist history is being taught and that’s its gotten completely out of hand. Revisionist history has always been present in the various textbooks used in the public schools over the years but this current wave of books and teachers is disturbing. It’s not only what’s in the books, but just as important what’s not in them. My old high school teacher was a WWII vet and a FDR progressive of that era. I was much more fortunate in college and had good conservative instructors. Later, however, when I did my student teaching, I returned to my old high school and the old man was still there, so I was very careful what I said about certain things when conducting his classes. After he retired I took his place and stayed there until the 5th Circuit Court out of New Orleans re-assigned me to another school—that was the day I resigned and haven’t set foot in a classroom since.

    Your post are great and I enjoy reading them. Excuse my ramblings today, some things get me upset and this post touched a nerve.

    • Sorry for the nerve touching, but this is Conservative Teacher’s work. It is disturbing, but predictable, that the left would change history to something that favors “progressive” points, and makes the ideas of freedom and capitalism look like something evil. All part of the indoctrination machine.

  • Don

    Good post, ACT. I read somewhere recently that to get anywhere near a history book that isn’t biased, you must find one from the 1920s or ’30s.

    • For a time, we were considering home schooling our daughter. In our research, I had found this entire curriculum that was based on books for the very early 20th century. It was incredibly comprehensive, and %100 truth. Of course, this was the time that our educational system was allegedly the envy of the world.

  • As a “victim” of the Government School system, I have seen it personally. Ironically most of my teachers here in Georgia were either conservative, middle of the road, or a fair liberal like my ninth grade history teacher who I almost always had some discussion with at least twice a week, it wasn’t untill I took some night school classes that I meet a real liberal/progressive type who would try to shut you up or embarrass you in the class, with a class of about a dozen. As for the tests I always give the “correct answers” while knowing what the correct answers really were, like the recent GED tests I took. Parents have to become more involved with their kids homework and school work now that the liberal/progressives are pushing even harder now then ever, worst case they might have to pull their kids out of the Government School system, but they well be better off. A good personal story/example is as a history buff in school I never knew about some of the technological breakthroughs that the Nazis made during WW2, it wasn’t until I subscribed to a series of cards about airplanes that I found out about the ME-262, ME-163 komet, and the Horten Ho IX, and the fact that our own government was saying that jet technology was impossible even as Britten and Germany was test the first jets, and they had no programs of their own in secret development it wasn’t until our ally Britten showed us their jet that our “wise” government realized its mistake. The rewriting of history is going to get us into a lot of problems if it isn’t already with this economy.