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.