Norm-Referenced Testing and Low-Income Blacks

Castenell Jr., Louis A.; Castenell, Mae E.
November 1988
Journal of Counseling & Development;Nov88, Vol. 67 Issue 3, p205
Academic Journal
The purpose of this article is to highlight biases, that is, learning styles and test bias, involved in testing low-income Blacks with norm-referenced, achievement tests and to offer suggestions to assist counselors in improving their students' test performance.
Two important pieces of research confirm what many observers have suspected for a long time. First, empirical evidence shows that norm-referenced tests are not culturally biased against Blacks as an ethnic group; rather, lower scores of minorities are more closely related to their economic status (Roberts & DeBlassie, 1983). Second, the social psychological characteristics of low-income Black children are uniquely different from other groups, including Black middle-class children, in the areas of cognitive learning styles and transition from concrete to abstract modes of communication. Specifically, Wyche and Wyche's (1984) review of the literature on low-income Black children suggested that (a) low-income Black children exhibit delayed-language skills, (b) low-income Black children use fewer conceptual categories and abstractions and more global descriptors, and (c) the living environments of low-income Black families foster early concrete thinking but do not promote verbal functioning, as do the living environments of middle-class White families.


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