Popham, Chapter 5 Pondertime (p 135-136, #1, #5, #6, #7), Due 2/1/2012

Chapter 5 Pondertime (p. 135-136, #1, #5, #6, #7)
1.  If you were asked to support a high school graduation test you knew would result in more minority than majority youngsters being denied a diploma, could you do it?  If so, under what circumstances?

As Popham (2011) states so eloquently on pg. 115, disparate impact does not equal assessment bias.  I would in this case take a hard look at the school graduation test and evaluate it for assessment bias using some of the tools suggested in this chapter.  I would also be very careful of creating a prophecy/suspicion either in my mind or in the minds of other faculty and staff and especially of the students such that those prophecies/suspicions become self-fulfilling.  I would support the exam if I found it to be free from assessment bias, and then sign up for summer school duty to help those students who were denied a diploma to get back on track!


Popham, W.J. (2011). Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know. (6th ed.). Boston ,MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

5.  What is your view about how much effort a classroom teacher should devote to bias detection and bias elimination?

Popham (2011) lists a few ways to reduce bias, including judgmental approaches which include

-bias review panels

-per item absence-of-bias judgments and

-an overall absence-of bias judgment.

(Popham, pg 117)

In addition to judgmental approaches listed above there are also empirical approaches, but finally the author gives some practical tips on how a classroom teacher can remove bias.  Whereas I agree that becoming sensitive to bias is a necessary start, I don’t believe it is sufficient.  I really appreciated the section “Parent Talk” (pg. 121) which described how some relevant peer review of assessment tools can go a long way to making for a more equitable classroom and assessment process, before a parent has to make an accusation to the contrary.  I believe that also not only for new teachers but even veteran teachers (since the makeup of the classroom can change), some peer review occasionally could be quite helpful for bias detection and bias elimination.  I would even go so far as to say that former students and even current students can help reduce bias due to “squareness” i.e. the disconnect between generations that can sometimes make assessments difficult for lack of cultural (i.e. intergenerational) literacy.


Popham, W.J. (2011). Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know. (6th ed.). Boston ,MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

6.  What kind of overall education assessment strategy can you think of that might make the testing of students with disabilities more fair?  How about LEP students?

Needless to say this question is a daunting one.  The spectrum of students with disabilities and the spectrum of students with LEP is broad and perhaps even overlapped.

Popham discusses the history of ESEA and NCLB to give context to current discussion and a little history of the IEP as a tool for measuring student progress.  I think the only assessment strategy that would make testing of both students fair is an individualized one.  I am very sympathetic to the argument that and IEP allows for individualized goals—not a means to water down content requirements or lower standards—but as a tool to describe the best ways to assess a particular student given their abilities.  I appreciate that as a motivation for discussion accommodations.

In particular  I took a closer look at the report from the CCSSO (Thompson, Morse, Sharp & Hall, 2005).  I like that the discussion can be changed to talk about the accommodations necessary to help students do their best on assessments, and especially Popham’s suggestion that we ask the students what accommodations they would most need.


[NOTE:  no points for Popham for using “mentally retarded”, a term which has been out of favor now for quite a few years.]

When it comes to ELL/LEP, I like a similar approach related to accommodations.  The conservative in me is reluctant to translate exams and materials so that every student can basically prolong their learning of English as a pre-requisite of good citizenship in this country.  Schools are meant to be hothouses of growth and not insular enclaves which seek to create a world which does not exist in the broader society.  That said, I think assessments continue to be in English and students which need help get individualized and focused training to help them get up to speed with their peers.


Popham, W.J. (2011). Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know. (6th ed.). Boston ,MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Thompson, S.J., Morse, A.B., Sharpe, M. & Hall S. (2005).  Accommodations Manual:  How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities.  (2nd ed.).  Washington, DC:  Council of Chief State School Officers.

7.  Can bias in educational assessment devices be totally eliminated?  Why or why not?

I don’t believe you can ever totally eliminate bias.  For a couple of reasons:
    1. the students change each year, which is to say
    2. at any given time you can’t know all the backgrounds of all your students, i.e. what they have or have not experienced.

Without perfect knowledge of what your students have experienced, or where they have come from, you may always trigger some memory or anxiety-producing experience that you hadn’t intended.

I like to think more about how you could reduce the triggers in an assessment through pure symbolic representations (math) or purely natural world representations (science).  I suppose you might say that the hard sciences are closer to being able to produce bias-free assessments, but when you start talking about the ethics of science, the chance for bias increases.  And, I can’t imagine effective math or science education without talking about the impact of math and science in the ethical realm. 

In the trivial case, I suppose you could have no bias in an educational assessment if you didn’t teach anything, and thus needed no assessments (beyond trivial ones).


Popham, W.J. (2011). Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know. (6th ed.). Boston ,MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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