Publication Date: 2003-12-00
Author: Tippeconnic, John W., III
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools
The Use of Academic Achievement Tests and Measurements with American Indian and Alaska Native Students. ERIC Digest.
Although there has long been research and interest in how well American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) perform on standardized tests, the current emphasis on test scores as the major measure of student academic success in schools creates a sense of urgency to know more and to find ways for students to achieve higher scores. The stakes are high for students, schools, and communities, given the current national focus on accountability, standards, and student assessment. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has resulted in the reality that every child will be tested often and that all schools will be held accountable with consequences if adequate yearly progress is not made on student test scores and other educational measures.
This Digest focuses on academic testing and AI/AN students. Topics covered
include the use of test results, student performance on tests, the identification
of major test issues, and suggestions to improve test scores
Approximately 90% of the 600,000 AI/AN students in K-12 education attend public schools, while about 49,000 students attend schools supported by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) (Swisher & Tippeconnic, 1999). NCLB, with its emphasis on adequate yearly progress (AYP), public accountability, and categorizing schools that do not meet AYP (i.e., "school improvement," "corrective action," or "restructuring" schools), puts a lot of pressure on schools to have their students do well on standardized tests.
The learning environment is quite complex for AI/AN students and their teachers, given the assimilation approach to Indian education, the types and locations of schools, and the cultural and linguistic diversity (over 200 languages) found in the approximately 600 federally and state recognized tribes.
Ideally, test results should be used to improve learning for all students
Opponents of testing argue that current testing programs do not provide valid or reliable information, especially for English language learners, low socioeconomic status (SES) students, and ethnic and cultural groups. In fact, there are a number of unintended negative consequences for students, for example, "labeling students, teachers, and schools as low performing, [and] narrowing of the curriculum" (Jones et al., 2003, p. 171). Barton (1999), in an ETS publication, states "the way tests are used in practice in elementary and secondary schools--of rewarding and punishing schools, closing schools, and judging educational progress--is often appallingly primitive" (p. 21).
HOW DO NATIVE STUDENTS PERFORM ON TESTS?
Since test results have multiple uses, it is critical that AI/AN students do well if Indian education is to improve. Although a number of AI/AN students perform exceptionally well on standardized tests, the reality is that too many do not. In 1988, the BIA reported that their students scored well below the national mean of other students on standardized tests in reading, language, and mathematics (Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1988). The 2002-2003 BIA Report Card showed 54.0% and 50.5% of their students at the proficient or advanced levels in math and language arts respectively (Bureau of Indian Affairs, 2003). Test performance for Whites was higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in mathematics and science at grades 4, 8, and 12 compared to AI/AN students, although Native students scored higher than Hispanics and Blacks in both areas (Wirt et al., 2002; 2003).
Testing has been a concern for years. The Meriam Report (Institute for
In the 1950s, the BIA acknowledged the importance of the relationship between AI/AN culture and language and student achievement, but from an assimilation and cultural deficit perspective. Anderson, Collister, and Ladd (1953) stated "that as the cultural and educational backgrounds of Indian children become more like those of White children in public schools, the more closely will the educational achievement of Indian children match that of White children" (p. 79). It was clear that testing results would not only be used to compare Indian students in different school types, but also the performance of White students would be the benchmark when comparisons are made.
Today members of the dominant White group continue to have higher scores
MEASUREMENT AND TESTING ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED
Standardized testing fails to consider the vast diversity of AI/AN cultures and languages (Bordeaux, 1995). If tribal languages and cultures are ignored, then cultural bias, content comparability, the norming of tests, and test validity and authenticity become serious issues (Lomawaima & McCarty, 2002; Padilla & Lindholm, 1995; Fox, 2001).
McInerney (1992) contends using test scores leads to flawed research
since the studies did not establish that the "behaviors and responses being
measured were functionally, conceptually or metrically equivalent to those
from which norms for comparisons were drawn, and that the constructs and
tools used were culturally appropriate" (p. 2)
Other factors in education influence student success. Not only is there
the history of
The assessment of AI/AN special education students is also an issue. Tippeconnic and Faircloth (2002) discuss the overrepresentation of AI/AN students receiving special education services and the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate assessment to determine if a student has "a language-related disability or if the student's academic difficulties are related to a lack of competence in the English language" (p. 2).
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Jones et al. (2003) suggest strategies that can be used to improve test
* Allow students who are not proficient to get extra help after school
or during the
* Allow special testing accommodations for special-needs students.
* Recruit, employ, and retain competent faculty members who reflect the diversity of the student population.
* Provide meaningful professional development opportunities to enable
* Invite successful minority adults to serve as role models for young minority students.
* Provide data from statewide testing programs that can be used to inform planning and instruction.
* Embrace the notion that learning must be demonstrated through tasks
that are real
* Align assessment with curriculum and classroom instruction, to make
sure the tests
* Always use multiple methods of assessment when making high-stakes decisions (pp. 119-121).
A FINAL WORD
Even during this era of high-stakes testing, performance-based assessment
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