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What's Wrong With "Standardized" Testing

Teaching at Tougaloo College, 1968-75, made Loewen aware that "standardized" tests like the ACT and SAT have unfair impact on racial minorities, especially African Americans, Native Americans, and increasingly Latino Americans. Tougaloo produced students with fine minds and good skills who subsequently performed well in difficult graduate programs, yet scored below the national median on multiple choice exams. Subsequent research revealed that these tests also disadvantage women and rural students.

The Validity of "Standardized" Testing in Education and Employment

Loewen was the lead panelist in hearings held by the United States Commission on Civil Rights (back when we had one). His initial testimony is on pages 41-45. On pages 58-59, Loewen's remarks prompt Dr. Nancy Cole, then vice-president of ETS, to agree that she "would also prefer that the Scholastic Aptitude Test didn't have the term 'aptitude' in its name." Dr. Lloyd Bond also agreed. Later, when Dr. Cole became head of ETS, she changed the name to "Scholastic Assessment Test." Then, after ETS realized the new name was redundant, it was changed simply to "SAT." Today, "SAT" stands for SAT!

Loewen has additional comments on pages 60-62. His paper, "A Sociological View of Aptitude Tests," occupies pages 73-91. He also recommends testimony and papers by other panelists and by Eileen Rudert, who edited the volume.


Additional Work by Loewen Questioning "Standardized" Testing

"Here We Go Again: Tests for the Common Core May Be Unfair to Some and Boring To All"

"Revising the SAT To Make It Even Worse"

With Phyllis Rosser and John Katzman, Loewen developed tests using SAT items on which girls did better than, the same as, and worse than boys, showing that the gender gap, favoring boys, was a political decision.

Back in 1973, Loewen Questioned the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) As a Poor Tool for Graduate Admissions. This letter (on page 7) appeared in the newsletter of the American Sociological Association.

Back in 1978, Loewen pointed out that "standardized" tests are biased and can never result in a level playing field unless different statistical steps or test-item construction steps are taken. These criticisms have never been addressed adequately. The piece "Breaking the Vicious Circle" appeared in Clearinghouse for Civil Rights Research, v6 #1-2 (Autumn-Winter 1978), published by the Center for National Policy Review.

Loewen's Work on "Standardized" Testing Used by Others

Dean of All Civil Rights Law Groups Makes Use of Loewen's Attacks on "Standardized" Testing in its Amicus Brief in the Harvard Admissions Case. (Full Amicus Brief) (Press Release)

Journalist James Fallows wrote a cover article for The Atlantic, "The Tests and the Brightest", partly based on Loewen's research and testimony before Congress.

College teachers and some HS teachers have used "The Collegiate IQ Test," the last of
"Introductory Sociology: Four Classroom Exercises", to show students what is wrong with "standardized" tests like IQ and "aptitude" tests. [also available here]

In 1979, Ralph Nader, the NAACP, FairTest, and other activists, concerned about the ways that "standardized" tests decreased equal opportunity in America, recruited me to testify and prepare statements for a Congressional subcommittee: "Statement of James W. Loewen on H.R. 3564, Truth in Testing Act of 1979, and H.R. 4949, Educational Testing Act of 1979", in Hearings to Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education, House of Representatives (DC: Govt. Printing Office, 1980). 545-55.

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