Group Differences in Standardized Testing and Social Stratification

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This all started from the beginning of the 19th Century when the United States began taking in immigrants fleeing from Europe due to the devastation of World War I. During this time Carl C. Brigham—a professor of psychology at Princeton University— published A Study of American Intelligence (1923) “in which he emphasized that the decline in America’s intelligence was attributable to the influx of low IQ immigrants” (Strout and Stuart 133). Brigham came to this conclusion by creating puzzles for soldiers during the war that would test their intelligence.

After World War I, Brigham created a new test to measure the intelligence of high school students who wanted to go to college. This test would be called The Scholastic Aptitude Test, more commonly known as The SAT. At first, The SAT was not very popular but when World War II ended, soldiers returned to the US and were able to go to college for free thanks to the GI Bill. This caused a drastic rise in college enrollment and with this colleges needed to find a way to sort though all the applications; enter the SAT. Colleges began requiring SAT scores for all applicants in order to rank their college preparedness (Toch). And this way of ranking applicants has relatively remained the same till this day. With the immense weight that is placed on the importance of getting a good score on the SAT came another thing that the test seemed to measure; wealth. Think about it, if a student is born and raised in a lower income neighborhood and goes to a lower-income school, it is very likely that student may not fair as well as a student who was given everything needed to obtain a above average score on the SAT. In Wayne J. Camara and Amy Elizabeth Schmidt’s report titled “Group Differences in Standardized Testing and Social Stratification” they provide the chart shown below:As shown in the chart above, it is clear to see that there is a direct connection between how well a student does on their SAT and the wealth of their parents. Not only has the SAT biased based on wealth but it has also been biased based on gender.

In Andrew Hacker’s article “83 Seconds” he states that on the SAT in 2015 “boys averaged 527 in the mathematics section against 496 for girls” (18). Since there should be no difference in the gender of the individual and their score then why is there such a wide gap between the scores of male and female test takers? This gap in test score really does play a huge part in the lives of women seeking higher education. Seeing that historically women tend to score lower than the national average on the SAT, it is reasonable to assume that when applying to a university like Yale or Harvard who only accept applicants with an SAT score in the top 1%, women are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to being accepted or not. This can have a great impact on their futures because if they even manage to get accepted to a college or university, they will be less likely to obtain a job that pays as much as the job that they might have got if they had that degree from that Ivy League university. This is only the tip of the iceberg because there is another more blatant form of prejudice that are engraved in the paper of standardized tests; that being racial discrimination. On tests like the SAT, white students tend to fare significantly better than other racial groups. In the same report by Wayne J. Camara and Amy Elizabeth Schmidt that was referenced in a previous paragraph, they provide data that shows that on the SAT alone white test-takers average 1054, whereas African American test-takers average around 860, Asian American test-takers average about 1024 and Hispanic American test-takers average 916 (Camara and Schmidt 2).

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If standardized tests were not biased like they claim to be, then why is there such a tremendous gap between the scores of these test-takers that says otherwise? The only answer to this question is yes, there is discrimination within standardized testing. On the other hand, many who side with standardized tests will say that there is no other accurate way for colleges and universities to accurately rank the preparedness of a potential college student. However, this is not an effective argument because like any other problem, there is always a solution. The solution to this problem is to either get rid of standardized tests all together or remove the individual from the test itself. To clarify the ladder, if The College Board make tests like the SAT less about who is taking the test and more about that individuals work, it would make discriminating against an induvial based on gender or race much more difficult. The easiest way this could be done is by removing the students name from the tests and resorting to a numerical identification system like a social security number or a school ID number.

Though this is the easier of the two ways of cutting out discrimination in standardized testing, it also fails to fix the problem of discrimination based off wealth. Therefore, to completely rid discrimination in standardized testing is to remove the tests completely and resort back to the way colleges ranked college preparedness before standardized tests; that being GPA. If colleges and universities accepted applicants solely based off their GPA, it would significantly cut down on discrimination during the college application process as well as place importance on the induvial students over all schoolwork than just the score of a single test. This solution may seem unlikely to work but removing standardized tests has already been proven to greatly reduce bias within the college admissions process.

For example, in 2014, Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts decided to completely disregard SAT/ACT test scores from the applications of students seeking admission and after doing so, they were able to see some very remarkable results, such as “the percentage of students who accepted our invitation to enroll, rose in a single year from 18% to 26%… Class diversity increased to 31% students of color, the most diverse in [their] history, up from 21% two years ago… [and] The percentage of students who are the first generation from their family to attend college rose from 12% to 18%” (Lash). This is only one example of how beneficial removing standardized test results from college admissions would be. As shown by Hampshire College’s data, not only would doing so drastically reduce bias within the college admissions process but it would also help in making colleges and universities across the country more diverse.

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