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E801: Action 3.14: Implications of using tests

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Murphy, S. 'Literacy assessment and the politics of identities' [Course website]

Notes on implications and equity issues in individual assessment.

General problems

  • Low scoring students results based on smaller sample of responses than higher scoring students
  • No credit for partial knowledge
  • Summaries masks differences between test scores i.e. student scores uniformly low or one test is very low and rest above average
  • Knowledge of format of tests affects performance
  • Limited generalisability from test to context e.g. comprehension test can be answered without reading the passage
  • Limited relevance to non-school environment
  • One narrow path to success - perceived as unfair by those with strengths in other areas.

Systematic bias

Testing takes place in context. It has behavioural rules on inter-personal communication and participation

  • Interaction between examiner/examinee
  • Anxiety
  • Over-testing and speed of testing for African-American children
  • Low achievers more anxious
  • Negative about process that sorts them for race and class
  • Freq. of specific word use differs across languages so students may not recognise words even if translated to their own language
  • In translation the resultant tasks may not be equivalent

Teachers administering tests

  • Successful result of the system
  • Forced to participate in system even if do not agree
  • Psychologists do not know child; teacher/parent does so ideas of teacher/parent often confirmed even though results are ambiguous
  • Teachers focus on those pupils likely to show gains in test results
  • Teachers reportedly alter results, teach to the test, use test items in class. Resistance but pressure to get pupils to achieve.

Psychologists administering tests

  • Seem to be autonomous in selection and administration of tests
  • Milofsky found psychologists in suburbs worked in environment and identified barriers; those in urban environment were too busy and identified individual differences
  • Objectivity of test legitimises the work;
  • Working in marginal position so power important to personal identity
  • Legal requirements require audit trail


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