Equity in Assessment

Research on multicultural groups including Black, Hispanic, First Nation, and ESL suggests that standards based reforms, large scale assessments, implementation of standards based reforms are unfair (Volante, 2008).

We run into problems when the big data is always used to prove what works in education, for instance, why we need Librarians, more standardized texts for guided reading, or to continue to teach from perspectives of dominant culture.

We need education that includes librarians, FNMI perspectives and multicultural approaches because that is what makes education work. That is what promotes equity and inclusion.

We should need education, FNMI perspectives, Librarians, funding and more because they promote equity with our students. Not because the high stakes testing shows that they support student achievement. We will only be able to achieve equity when we allow the variable of ‘equity’ to be a multi-dimensional construct. It is schools, families, and local communities that help close the achievement gap.

Do we need to have high-stakes standardized testing in order to compel schools to improve their instructional approaches? Is this really the only way?  We need to be careful that we are not assuming that standardized testing is anything other than an oversimplification of learning.

Those schools with more multi-cultural groups, and FNMI cultures, often feel compelled to narrow the curriculum just to boost test scores. Simply talking about how a standardized test is ‘culture-free’ or culturally relevant does not quite capture the challenges faced by different populations of people. It also only recognizes the test developers as the ones that can make significant changes to our tests to promote equity.

Also, traditional paper and pencil tests favour certain populations because it measures only certain skills and types of knowledge. We live in an era where we are trying to promote and recognize and acknowledge different types of knowledge. It just seems to me that standardized tests promote a ‘hidden curriculum’.

My point is that the curriculum can become narrow, and time spent preparing for areas of importance as deemed by high stakes testing.

Volante (2008) argued that assessment equity is a multifaceted construct based on technical quality, reporting, utilization and educational opportunity. I won’t go into those variables here, but I think that it is very important to know that equity is more than just the language and ideas on a standardized test. The fact is that our intentions and actual outcomes of these assessments are often incongruent, and the research continually demonstrates unintended consequences for Black, Hispanic, First Nations and ESL students (Volante, 2008). They simply do not do as well as their white counterparts. As a result, Multicultural and FNMI students are disenchanted or disengaged with school. Are we inadvertently limiting someones life chances just because of our obsession with standardized testing? Do we care more about schooling than education?

What if we stopped limiting our students and teachers by the language that we use, and gave ourselves permission to teach outside of the bounds of our standardized assessments? Curriculum definitely is more than our documents and assessments would have us all believe.

What does curriculum and assessment mean to you?

Deborah McCallum

c2015

Volante, L. (2008). Equity in multicultural student assessment. The Journal of Educational Thought, 42(1), 11-26. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213797671?accountid=14771

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