Re: Joan O. Dawson-Opening Statement

Date: Thu Mar 02 2000 - 17:13:55 EST

In reply to:Ina Mogensen

One of the purposes of assessment is to improve the learning for all
students. Unfortunately, it has for minority students been a barrier or a
hurdle to learning. In fact, assessments have resulted in tracking,
labeling, inappropriate representation of minorities in special education
classes across the country and in gifted and talented and honors programs.
Emeritus Edmund Gordon wrote, " We begin with the conviction that it is
desirable that attention be given to the questions of equity early in the
development of an assessment process rather than as an add-on near the end
of such work... The challenge for teachers and others who are truly
concerned about equity for all students in to find assessment measures
which measure the same criterion from contexts and perspectives which
reflect the life space and values of the student.

To specifically address your question of the implications of a vast number
of gifted and talented minority students not being identified, is that
these students end up being the discipline problems, the drop-outs or the
average performers because of the lack of challenging and exciting
engagement in the classrooms. The implication is that the culture of the
student is a very dominant factor that should be taken into consideration
when attempting to evaluate and assess.
Robert Linn says, "The criterion of equity needs to be applied to any
assessment. It is a mistake to assume that shifting from standardized
tests to performance-based assessments will eliminate concerns about biases
against racial/ethnic minorities or that such a shift will necessarily lead
to equality of performance. I would add that this is also true to some
extent as females move into areas that have been traditionally male
oriented. Performance gaps exist all over the country between certain
groups of students. Those gaps exist because of a lack of sensitivity to
the degree of exposure, motivation, attitude toward the dominant culture
and other factors that have nothing to do with ability. On the side of the
assessor, the performance based assessments are guided by expectation
level, relationship with students and general point of reference, that is
sometimes far different from that of the student being assessed. I hope
this statement sheds some light on my opening statement.

Joan O. Dawson
New York University Equity Assistance Center
82 Washington Square E. Suite 72
NYC, 10003
(212) 998-5116

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