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Standardized tests penalize poor students

The March 9 New York Times Magazine had an article on the Scholastic Achievement Test, which included an eye-opening chart labeled “A Test of Knowledge or Income?” The chart breaks down SAT participants by family income. SAT scores increase significantly with each increase in income. Thus, students with a family income of $20,000 or less have an average score of 1,326; with an income of $40,000 to $60,000, scores average 1,461; with an income of $100,000 to $120,000, scores average 1,569; and with an income above $200,000, scores average 1,714.

If the College Board, which spends millions of dollars per year on creating a fair, objective evaluation of students’ aptitudes, cannot create a test that factors out bias based on family income, what does that say about the Common Core tests? Is it really a coincidence that students from affluent school districts consistently test better than students from low-income districts? Does it mean that the students from the former districts are smarter? Or that their teachers are better?

An awful lot will be riding on the Common Core tests – for students, teachers and districts. To base decisions on a test that is biased against poor people is simply not fair. A child born into poverty already has enough going against him or her. Penalizing that child (and his or her teachers) further based on Common Core test results is wrong.

Joe Gerken

Buffalo