'Racial Bias' Claims Insult Families of Color

Cherylyn Harley LeBon

9/17/2011 12:01:00 AM - Cherylyn Harley LeBon

It’s September, so it’s back-to-school for American kids and other children around the world. Many families pack away the swimsuits and beach gear, unpack the notebooks, lunch bags, brand new shoes, and look forward to the regular routine.

This fall is also an interesting time of reflection in our country.

Record numbers of Americans are living below the poverty line, the housing foreclosure rate continues to climb, and rising unemployment will, in fact, keep some of these children going back to school on the school lunch program longer than expected. In these desperate times, people resort to desperate measures - engaging in scare tactics and myths so often embraced and perpetuated by the liberal media. Chief among these myths is the controversy surrounding the SAT college admissions test. Disturbingly, the media’s promotion of this myth is creating confusion among students and families considering college options.

Opponents of the SAT test argue that the test determines who gets into college and who does not, and should be, therefore, abolished in favor of “test optional policies.” This argument is largely promoted by the group Fair Test, which advocates an end to standardized testing in college admissions.

Fair Test's roster of supporters includes George Soros, the infamous billionaire who has bankrolled MoveOn.org and several other left-wing groups and politicians. Fair Test touts itself as an educational organization, but it is a special interest group recognized by the mainstream media as a credible source on educational testing issues.

The sad result of this misinformation is the effect on students and families preparing for college, particularly students and families of color. Fair Test continues to argue that the SAT is biased against minority and low income students. In fact, the goal of Fair Test is to play the blame game and portray minority students (or any students who do not perform well on the SAT) as victims in their sandbox game of Limousine Liberal politics.

The racial bias myth was definitively laid to rest several years ago in the peer-reviewed journal American Psychologist. University of Minnesota researchers Paul Sackett, Matthew Borneman and Brian Connelly examined the issue and reported that any inference that group scores are linked to bias is, “unequivocally rejected within mainstream psychology.” The only people still advocating that the SAT is racially biased are patriarchal liberal groups including Fair Test who play the race card when other options fail.

Others have also refuted the claims of racial bias in standardized testing.

In 2008, Jonathan Epstein, a researcher with Maguire Associates, studied the impact of test-optional policies in college admissions. Epstein discovered that test-optional policies at colleges and universities lead to artificially inflated average SAT scores among incoming freshmen. He found this resulted in further confusion for prospective students and families and “is not in the best interest of any institution or higher education in general.”

As parents, we all want our children to grow up and become productive members of society. The college search process is an important step in helping our children make major life decisions. A political group is advocating for the end of standardized testing, and continues to mislead students and families by attempting to influence an academic professional organization overseeing college admissions. The result will be to marginalize successful black students or those who come from other racial, ethnic or socioeconomic groups.

Promoting the racial bias myth also harms students by creating the wrong expectation that the deck is stacked against them. The truth is, every SAT question is exhaustively pre-tested and carefully analyzed for any bias.

Questions are reviewed by panels of K-12 and college educators and questions which indicate any bias are never used in the actual test. Furthermore, more than three-quarters of the nation’s top historically black colleges and universities accept the SAT as an admissions requirement. Score differences may exist among some students in different groups, but they do not indicate bias in the SAT, and are an unfortunate reflection of inequities in K-12 education across thousands of school districts.

The continued claims of racial bias in SAT testing are insulting to all families of color when interest groups portray us as victims incapable of advocating for ourselves. The policies of Fair Test and other liberal interest groups reveal that these groups are more concerned with the politics of race than educating the children of this country.