Are assessments the best predictors of students' abilities?
- New York City’s assessment for students to gain entrance to its elite high schools shows bias against girls, wrote The Hechinger Report, citing upcoming research from the Gender Equity Project at Hunter College of the City University of New York. The problem may lie in the use of multiple choice questions in tests.
- The study found that among girls and boys who earned the same score on New York City’s Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), girls had a grade point average that was 4.2 points higher on a 100-point scale than that of boys.
- This is mirrored at the college level, where women did better than men in lab sections, while men scored higher on exams, according to research from University of Michigan physicist Timothy McKay. The thinking is that women have trouble when they’re in situations, like taking high-stakes tests, where they have stereotypically not succeeded.
Standardized tests are so woven into curriculum today that it’s difficult to excise them from the educational process. However, administrators and curriculum designers can make choices on how to use these exams, and the emphasis they place on them, when steering students toward academic pathways and career exploration.
When used to identify students who need additional support in certain subjects, assessments can be helpful tools. When used to make overall judgments on a child’s future career path — limiting those that may be in front of them — they can be harmful.
When it comes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, for example, girls appear to get pushed away. Fewer girls enroll in STEM classes, clubs and college programs than boys. Girls may even label themselves as lacking potential in STEM subjects after taking assessments in these subjects in elementary school, or even mirror their own teachers who voice how they lack skills in math or other specific STEM subjects, as well.
To bring true equality to all children, educators must put assessments back in their place, as stones that mark where students stand and not where their potential will take them tomorrow.
- The Hechinger Report The problem with high-stakes testing and women in STEM
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