Understanding Assessment and Cultural Bias


A child that comes from a culturally and linguistically diverse background may not have had exposure to the knowledge or experience that is present in a standardized test as they are currently administered in the United States. This can be due to lack of culturally or linguistically sensitive assessments or evaluators. Culture includes beliefs and behaviors of a specific group of people. Cultural bias directed towards cultural differences and is evident in assessment in testing materials and evaluators. Most commercially available testing materials are produced by test designers representing mainstream, middle-class Standard American English speaking culture.

A student or evaluator may have expectations based on experiences and background. For example, the Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language tests for idioms. However, a student may have never heard an idiom, which is not language impairment. A test may also refer to experiences or items that are unfamiliar or taboo to the child’s culture. For example, things people expect children of certain ages to do often based in culture rather than typical development, such as displaying a certain skill 

Misidentification affects the student’s and others’ perceptions of the child’s capacities and capabilities as well as expectations of achievement. Special education settings have reduced academic rigor and opportunities. Denied relationships with developing peers that could serve as role models. Disproportionate amount of special needs are minorities and diverse groups. Standardized testing may impact minorities, socioeconomic status encourage racism and misconceptions about people from those backgrounds on a large scale.

Many standardized tests in the US reflect the standards of the dominant culture. They may perpetuate cultural biases and disadvantage certain groups of students. Your tasks will evaluate your familiarity with some of the standardized tests in the United States for different age groups and their criticisms.


List the specific age range that each test is available to. Identify three flaws with how the given standardized test perpetuates the dominant culture.

  1. SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test): The SAT is a college admissions exam used by many universities in the United States. 

  2. ACT (American College Testing): Like the SAT, the ACT is a college admissions exam used by many universities in the United States. 

  3. IQ Tests: Intelligence quotient (IQ) tests have long been criticized for reflecting cultural biases, particularly in terms of language and background knowledge. 

  4. NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress): The NAEP is a federally-funded test that measures the academic achievement of U.S. students in various subjects. 

  5. AP (Advanced Placement) Exams: AP exams are college-level exams that high school students can take to earn college credit. 


For each exam type, list the specific age range as well as what three criticism of the test's cultural sensitivity or exacerbation of racial and socioeconomic inequality.


1. SAT: There is no age limit, but restrictions under age 12. This test is typically taken in the junior or senior year of high school with the PSAT or Pre-SAT during the freshman or sophomore year. The test is biased towards white, middle-class students, as it tests knowledge and skills that are often more familiar to those from privileged backgrounds.

2. ACT: All ages and grade levels can take the ACT, but it is typically taken in the sophomore, senior, or especially junior year of high school. It is culturally biased, as it tests knowledge and skills that are often more familiar to students from white, middle-class backgrounds.

3. IQ Tests: Any age can be IQ tested, but the best time to test in children is between ages 5 and 8. Many IQ tests rely on verbal skills and cultural knowledge that may be more familiar to white, middle-class test-takers.

4. NAEP: Grades 4, 8, and 12 for main assessments, and ages 9, 13, and 17 for long-term trend assessments. The test reflects the dominant culture by prioritizing traditional academic skills and knowledge that may favor more privileged students, while overlooking other important aspects of learning and knowledge.

5. AP Exams: Anyone under 21 can take the exam, although it is typically high school juniors and seniors. The exams reflect the dominant culture by prioritizing knowledge and skills that are more familiar to students from privileged, white middle and upper class backgrounds, such as critical thinking and analysis, rather than more practical or applied knowledge.


In conclusion, standardized testing in the United States has been criticized for reflecting cultural biases and perpetuating inequities in education. Many standardized tests have been found to reflect the standards of the dominant culture, placing greater value on traditional academic skills and knowledge, which may be more familiar to students from privileged backgrounds. This can result in the disadvantage of students from marginalized communities who may not have access to the same resources and support systems. While standardized testing can provide useful information about student progress and achievement, it's essential to ensure that such tests are designed and administered in ways that are fair, unbiased, and culturally responsive, so that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Teacher Page

Look for specificity and accuracy in testing age limit responses. Make sure student lists at least 3 flaws in the standardized testing procedure and test content.