Friday, June 18, 2010

Study reveals SAT format puts black students at disadvantage

Posted by on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 3:14 PM

After 23 years of working to prove that the SAT puts black students at a disadvantage, research psychologist Roy Freedle has earned the listening ears of the education community.

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His projcect was widely greeted with dismissals and criticism from those in academia for years. But a recent paper in the Harvard Educational Review agrees with Freedle's original thesis and calls for the testing industry to look further into the claim.

The Washington Post has more on Freedle's findings, which identified a difference between "hard" and "easy" questions on the SAT:

Hard [SAT] questions, those that produced more wrong answers, tended to have longer, less common words. Easy questions tended to have shorter, more common words. Freedle thought this was key to the relative success African American students had with the harder ones. Simpler words tended to have more meanings, and in some cases different meanings in white middle class neighborhoods than they had in underprivileged minority neighborhoods, he concluded. This, he said, could help explain why African American students did worse on questions with common words than on questions that depended on harder, but less ambiguous words they studied at school.

Freedle suggests that there be a supplement to the SAT with a score based on answers to those harder questions.

According to the Washington Post, College Board President for the SAT Laurence Bunin said Freedle's work is "fundamentally flawed" and based on "a very small, limited and unrepresentative sample."

But others are saying that the College Board should at least look into the issue, whether to disprove or prove Freedle.

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