Monday, May 07, 2007

Racism/Sexism At The College Board?

A former student sent me this link to a College Board site for those who would like to become readers for AP exams.

In June, AP high school and college faculty members from around the world gather in the United States for the annual AP Reading. There they evaluate and score the free-response sections of the AP Exams.

So far, so good. But let's move on to the second sentence of the "How To Apply" section:

We especially encourage women and minorities to apply.

Why? What special benefits or attributes to women and/or minorities bring to scoring a standardized test?

The usual pablum we're fed about such so-called diversity is that different skin color or life experiences enrich the environment and allow people to work with others different from themselves, thereby preparing them for the 21st century workplace--or some such nonsense.

But for this job, readers are not supposed to interject their own opinions and life experiences into the process. By definition, AP exams are standardized tests that are supposed to be graded in accordance with a uniform, standardized methodology. What possible benefits are there--to the students, specifically--to specifically asking for women and minorities to serve as graders?

Answer: there are none. So what legitimate reason might the College Board offer for asking for them?

Update, 5/8/07: If this keeps up, John and I will have to form a mutual admiration society.


Eric W. said...

Ah, but Mr. Miller, you're forgetting that it's impossible to be racist/sexist if you support minorities/women. And if you say that they're being racist/sexist, that just reaffirms the fact that you are.

Darren said...

Curses! You're right!

Law and Order Teacher said...

I'm an AP History teacher who harbored hope of becoming a reader (good money). But alas, I've been found out for the racist, white male I am. I'm sure I didn't know that I would interpret historical writing through the prism of my life experiences which are obvously inferior to those of minorities and women. I'm going to have to work on that. Please give me time to change!

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh, be careful Darren. Can one support standardized testing, yet complain about the process by which standardized tests are scored (and almost certainly written)?

PS. I'm only half-serious about this one.

Anonymous said...

I hate College Board. Stupid SAT.

Ellen K said...

What I find annoying is the addition of "other than European" to an already crowded AP Art History curriculum. I have no problem with the topics, but we are already trying to teach 30,000 years of the most recognizable art styles, the addition of Oceania, China, Japan, India, MesoAmerica and Inuit just takes away from other more readily accessed styles. So I take away from Impressionism and Cubism to serve the demands of the AP College Board only to realize that the majority of the test will STILL BE BASED ON WESTERN ART. Why? Because after it's all said and done, successful societies conquer unsuccessful ones. That's what causes us to progress. I don't know why College Board doesn't get that.

Barry Leiba said...

But you're missing the point, and this is the key bit in the arguments about "affirmative action":
No one is saying that women and minorities will be accepted preferentially. They're simply saying, "Women and minorities are underrepresented in this group, relative to their representation in the overall teacher population. Let's make sure y'all get into the candidate pool, OK?"

We do this at my company too, as I say in this post. We make a specific effort to encourage women and minorities to compete for the positions. And then we give the positions to the most qualified people, without regard to their minority status.

There's a lot of criticism out there that "standardized tests" are nevertheless biased toward white students. What better way to allay that perception than to help qualified non-whites be reasonably represented on the evaluation board?

Darren said...

Barry, if they won't be hired preferentially, why specifically ask them to apply? There's already nothing to stop them from applying.

As for standardized tests' being "biased" against non-whites, I don't accept that argument, either. After all, it's *rich* people who know what a "regatta" is, not *white* people.

Unknown said...

The "test is biased" argument has been thoroughly discredited--for years. It translates into, "Kim is from a minority group, so she doesn't know what "lack" means!" and that, of course, isn't bias; it's a demonstration that Kim needs to be held back until she learns what "lack" means.

Nonsense from beginning to end, and it's only purpose it to make the bureaucrats at College Board feel better about themselves.

Darren said...

Oh, I don't think that's the *only* purpose.

Barry Leiba said...

«Barry, if they won't be hired preferentially, why specifically ask them to apply? There's already nothing to stop them from applying.»

First, let me say that I have no way to know whether there will or won't be preferential hiring... and if there is, I'll be as much against it as you are.

That out of the way... no, there's nothing that stops them from applying, but there is likely an existing "network" that results in a biased candidate pool. Again, I can't speak about this process in particular, but the effect is documented in many areas of hiring.

I'm not advocating quotas, but let me stick hypothetical numbers on here to help explain what I mean:
Suppose that 50 years ago, 95% of teachers were blue, and somewhere close to 100% of the applicants for this sort of position were blue. Lots of the publicity for soliciting applicants is word of mouth, friends handing friends flyers, and so on. Blue teachers hand blue teachers flyers, and, year after year, most applicants are blue.

But things change over the years in the demographics, and now only 70 of teachers are blue, about 20% are green, and the other 10% are orange, pink, and whatnot. And some of them have started applying for this, but it's still mostly blue teachers passing around the info, and maybe there's even a thought (false, but rumoured anyway) that they only pick blue teachers for this.

And the result is that, say, it's still the case that 92% of the applicants are blue. So we make an overt effort to get more green teachers, as well as orange ones and pink ones, to apply. And we manage to break through the somewhat closed networking, and at least partially dispel the misunderstanding that only blue teachers are hired here.

Eventually, the result is that, say, 20% of the applicants are non-blue. Maybe the blue teachers still tend to be better qualified, because they have more extensive experience at this... but we now find a bunch of qualified non-blue candidates too. And in the end, we wind up selecting 85% blue teachers... and 15% qualified non-blue ones — many of whom might have been reluctant to apply before, or who might not have even heard about the opportunity.

There is a good reason for encouraging minority candidates, even if they're not going to be given preference in hiring.