Testing: Stereotype Threat and the Perversion of Incentives, Part I


Photo Credit: Rorschach Test 1 on flickr photosharing

Just as intriguing, though, is the researchers’ explanation for why the effects hit some groups of students harder than others: They chalk it up to “stereotype threat.”

…when the research team examined students’ previous scores on other state tests, they turned up some evidence that minority students and women had underperformed on particular sections of the state exit exam. Women fared worse than their earlier performance might have predicted, for example, on the math portion. Asian students did worse-than-expected on English-language arts.

Think about the implication for our student’s test scores. If they think the test is critical for their future, then in aggregate, they are likely to perform at a level lower than past performance would indicate. That means if they have internalized the test as being “high stakes” the more likely it is to be inaccurate in actually measuring knowledge. The implications are troubling. I think that students didn’t feel the “threat” until CASHEE because while the stakes are high for educators, testing doesn’t have a real direct link for kids. It is used in some cases to assign double blocks of Language Arts and/or Mathematics in middle school, but CASHEE Is where the rubber hits the road for students.


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