There have been many important changes in the participation of women and men in American society over the past quarter-century. Tests play a role in those changes by providing evidence of the diverse achievement and proficiency of women and men. They aid the learning process and reflect inequalities in opportunity to learn and participate. In addition, they provide useful information in considering what alternatives in education and work make most sense for individuals and influence views about groups of students, educational programs, and a wide range of issues. For all of these reasons, it is important that tests assess fairly and reflect accurately the ways young people are and are not achieving as well as desired.
The test performance of women and men is a research topic of historical interest and has received much attention in recent years. Because of this increased interest, there is a great deal of new research and data available. The purpose of the study presented in this volume was to review this new information with two objectives in mind:
*to clarify patterns of gender difference and similarity in test performance and related achievements, and
*to see what implications those findings might have for fair assessment and, as a corollary, examine the assessment process as a possible source of gender differences.
This study is interested in tests used in education to assess developed knowledge and skill. In order to gain a broader view of gender similarity and difference, the contributors looked at other types of measures and other characteristics of young women and men. Their hope is to contribute to a firmer basis for insuring fairness in tests--an objective which is particularly important as the field moves increasingly to new forms of assessment in which there is less experience.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface. Introduction. Research on Gender Differences. W.W. Willingham, N.S. Cole, C. Lewis, S.W. Leung, Test Performance. C.A. Dwyer, L.M. Johnson, Grades, Accomplishments, and Correlates. N.S. Cole, Understanding Gender Differences and Fair Assessment in Context. B. Bridgeman, A. Schmitt, Fairness Issues in Test Development and Administration. Fairness Issues in Test Design and Use. Summary and Implications.
"This book's two primary goals are to provide data regarding differences and similarities in test results related to gender and to meet the need for fair test and assessment results."
"They are used to make some of the most important decisions in our lives -- who gets into a university or other competitive program, who gets the scholarships to pay tuition costs that can equal the salary a mid-level manager will earn in three years, who will gain entry into a world of the 'right' connections, and who will develop their intellectual potential in an environment of higher education. I am referring, of course, to the high-stakes tests that are used in college admissions and for determining entry into professional schools and professions. Some of these tests yield large and consistent differences between females and males, among African-Americans, Latinos, and Americans of European descent, between majors in the humanities and those in the sciences, to name a few. Are these tests fair, given the differences that exist among the groups? What does test fairness mean, both to the average person-on-the-street and the stat-smart developers of these anxiety-producing assessments? The authors tackle these questions and many other tough issues and criticisms of standardized testing, most directly focusing on sex differences in these tests and in other types of assessment (e.g. grades in school). Most importantly, they suggest guidelines for appropriate use of scores on high-stakes tests and provide assistance to consumers trying to understand what test scores really mean. Not everyone will agree on the causes or consequences of sex differences on high-stakes tests, but every reader will gain an understanding of the complexities involved in measuring the knowledge and reasoning skills needed for success in an academic area and the way that the many differences in the lives of males and females can be reflected in standardized tests."
—Diane F. Halpern, PhD
California State University, San Bernardino