Standards, Assessment, and Equality of Educational Opportunity

Publisher: Educational Researcher, 23 (8)
Page Numbers: 27-33

Testing has recently occupied a central role in proposals for school reform: It is variously touted as the key to improving student and teacher performance, the curriculum, and economic competitiveness. But ample research evidence demonstrates that educational testing works to the disadvantage of various minority groups, as well as girls and women. That certain groups are "disadvantaged" by educational testing, however, in the sense that they receive different opportunities as a result of it, provides only a prima facie case against educational testing. There may be ways of justifying the decisions made on the basis of differential test performance that are consistent with the requirements of equality. This article critically examines this general proposition, particularly the claims for testing incorporated into educational reform proposals over approximately the last 10 years. This discussion is framed largely in terms of the principle of equality of educational opportunity. It begins with a few remarks about the position this principle occupies within the broader terrain of social justice.