[EDEQUITY Assessment Dialogue ]Scholarships/testing inequity

From: Joan O. Dawson (joan.odawson@nyu.edu)
Date: Tue Feb 19 2002 - 10:08:56 EST

Christina: Thanks so much for your message on scholarships and funding for

tudents. The information is something that we don't always fit into the
equation when discussing access and accountability. Along as tests are
biased and also the basis for students' scholarship funds, we have a
tremendous inequity. The Equity Assistance Centers have long been
concerned, however, your message reminds us to keep up the challenge of
equity and access for all students.
Joan O. Dawson"

This message is in reference to the EdEquity Expert Panel discussion on
December 10-14, 2001."
From: Christina.Perez@phoenix.edc.org
Subject:[EDEQUITY Assesstment Dialogue] Closing statement by Christina

Hello all,

Sorry for my tardiness in posting these closing remarks. I'd like to
start by thanking Hilandia for organizing this panel and inviting me to
participate. I also appreciate everyone's engagement with this issue,
whether you posted something yourself or simply read and thought about
what others had to say. And I very much appreciate being on this panel
Dee Grayson, whose work puts in place authentic and substantial changes
promote equity.
The past week at FairTest perfectly illustrates the ways that
standardized tests impact equity at all levels of education. We sent a
letter to
Florida decision makers (Governor, Board of Education, members of the FL
Senate Education Committee, members of the FL House Division of Colleges
and Universities, and others) calling their attention to the racial
disparities in who receives a Bright Futures scholarship. This is a
state-funded scholarship program that uses high school GPA and SAT or
ACT scores to determine eligibility. The test score requirements result in
disproportionately few African American and Latino students receiving
one of the awards (which are worth either 100% or 75% tuition at a state
public university, or the equivalent amount at a private college), since
students from these groups score on average substantially lower than Whites
Asian Americans. So we've suggested that the state drop the test score
requirement and in its stead include criteria such as work experience,
teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and future goals.
Using such criteria is an important step in breaking the false notion
that>test score equal merit, as students are able to demonstrate other
of their capabilities that better reflect their efforts and accomplishments
over four years of high school. If you want to read more about this
issue,I encourage you to visit the FairTest website and read our press
and accompanying letter athttp://www.fairtest.org/pr/Bright_Futures.html
The scholarship issue is a particularly disturbing one to me, and is
indicative of the troubling place standardized tests have come to occupy
in American education. Over the last ten years, the amount of need-based
scholarship money nationally has increased by 100 percent. While that
may sound impressive (and is certainly better than a decrease in money
awarded), it pales when compared with the increase in "merit-based"
scholarship awards (which use criteria such as GPA and test scores)
which have grown by more than 500 percent. Not surprisingly, these awards
going to those students who are more likely to go to college (and the
scholarship programs therefore are not pulling new students into the higher
education pipeline) and who are more likely to be able to afford
college.Shifts such as the types of scholarships awarded, the dramatic
in high-stakes testing, and the backlash against affirmative action and
bilingual education in many states make me wonder what's been going on
over the last ten years. Quite simply, it seems to me that somewhere
the way the educational system has lost its sense of compassion and equal
opportunity for all. We've stopped talking about public education as a
way to level the playing field for all students, and instead have created
policies that make the playing field even more slanted. For example,
rewards tied to test scores (e.g. scholarship money or bonuses for
schools that do well on state exams) are meted out to students who tend to
already be succeeding in the system. Yet the penalties tied to test scores
(e.g.not receiving a high school diploma, being retained, or not getting in
to college) fall heavily on the shoulders of students who already are
struggling to stay engaged and connected to the system. The penalties
come with few supports for these students, so genuine gains in learning
remain elusive. The education bill's testing program that is about to be
passed in Congress and signed by the President will only exacerbate this
tenfold, I fear.
Rather than being discouraged by my perhaps gloomy message, I actually
hope hat people reading this will not take this as a message of defeat but
rather as a call to action. I encourage you to get involved in the
issue of testing reform if you aren't already. And if you are already
plugging away at your piece of the testing/equity puzzle, please keep up
the good
work. Policies away from equal opportunity and a compassionate
educational system will only continue for as long as we let them.

Thanks for listening to my ranting and ravings. I hope we continue to
post messages about testing on this listserv, since we live in a time when
it's impossible to talk about educational equity without also talking about
standardized testing.

Christina Perez
FairTest (christina@fairtest.org)
TERC (christina_perez@terc.edu)

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