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date: 23 November 2020

High Stakes Testing and Educational Inequality in K-12 Schoolslocked

  • Ronald W. SolórzanoRonald W. SolórzanoOccidental College

Summary

The ubiquitous use of high stakes tests in K-12 schools in the United States has a deleterious effect on students of color (e.g., Black and Latino). Punitive policies related to test outcomes, such as retention and graduation, have been particularly damaging. In fact, the historical use of tests has been linked to exclusionary and racist motives resulting in discriminatory practices in college admissions while leading to genetic and cultural deficit theories to explain low achievement for students of color. The legacy of these early uses of tests has maintained its adverse presence in today’s educational landscape. National data on grade retention, high school dropout rates, and achievement indicate that students of color are disproportionately penalized by school-based policies resulting in an unequal educational experience. Unfortunately, these trends have been persistent reflecting achievement gaps between White and Asian students and Latino and Black students, and where, in most cases, no meaningful progress in eliminating these gaps has been made. English learners are particularly harmed by these policies and tests since language and opportunity to learn (OTL) concerns persist. Trends of low achievement are attributed to poorly resourced schools, cultural deficit theories employed by school personnel, and the invalid use of tests. Schools could serve students better by employing a curriculum and instruction that is culturally and linguistically relevant, that integrates communities and schools to critically analyze their educational and social-political status and agency thus empowering both for lasting change. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered to be instructional leaders who critically evaluate their curriculum and instruction so as to educate and liberate students of color.

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