Standardized Testing Maintains Achievement Gap

Standardized Testing Maintains Achievement Gap

Overview

Standardized testing has emerged as an important civil rights and racial justice issue. As society examines the institutions and practices that engender and perpetuate racial inequity, exams are not immune from the analysis.  From No Child Left Behind and “teaching to the test” in public schools, to the SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement exams, high-stakes testing dominates American education.  With a single score on a single exam having the potential to determine which school a student may attend, there is increased scrutiny over the misuse and overuse of these tests, and whether they should be used at all.

While critics of standardized tests point to their inherent racial and socioeconomic bias, few may realize the insidious origins of these exams.  In order to understand the problem, go to the root.

“Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies,” wrote Ibram X. Kendi — Assistant Professor of History at the University of Florida and author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America — in an African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) blog post. Kendi argues that the achievement gap — that system of racial hierarchy in which white and Asian students find themselves at the top, and where Blacks and Latinos are at the bottom — is itself a result of our blind obedience to standardized testing, and this notion that intelligence is measurable like one’s body weight.

 

“The original founders of standardized testing were racists, misogynists and anti-Semites. They believed Nordic males were superior and their previous pseudo sciences like measuring brain sizes, craniology, palmistry etc., provided so-called evidence for their beliefs, and standardized tests serve their purposes even better because it appeared objective” he said.

Carl Brigham (1890-1943), father of the SAT (PBS).

Carl Brigham (1890-1943), father of the SAT (PBS).

 

Schaeffer noted that the founder of the SAT, Princeton psychology professor Carl Brigham, was a racist and eugenicist who sat on the Advisory Council of the American Eugenics Society.  Brigham had a death-bed confession and repudiated his racist beliefs, as did a number of other people in the early part of the 20th century who led this racist testing movement.

“That was the center of gravity in the intellectual community of northern white Europeans,” Schaeffer said.  “All white men assumed the intellectual class were them and people who look like them.”

Rich Gibson — emeritus professor of Social Studies in the College of Education at San Diego State University — has noted in “The Fascist Origins of the SAT” that the college entrance exam stems from the IQ test, which was written by French psychologist Alfred Binet in 1905 and “was designed to prove the genetic advantage of races they had already identified as superior” and to “purify the race” by identifying inferior genes that were a “threat to the general welfare.”  Professor Gibson calls the SAT an “equation of lies” that undergirds the notion that intelligence can be measured, that race is a biological rather than a social construct, and that some folks simply are more deserving than others.