Mean Differences As Test Bias

A view widely held by laypeople and researchers (Adebimpe, Gigandet, & Harris, 1979; Alley & Foster, 1978; Hilliard, 1979, 1984; Jackson, 1975; Mercer, 1976; Padilla, 1988; Williams, 1974; Wright & Isenstein, 1977-1978) is that group differences in mean scores on ability tests constitute test bias. As adherents to this view contend, there is no valid, a priori reason to suppose that cognitive ability should differ from one ethnic group to another. However, the same is true of the assumption that cognitive ability should be the same for all ethnic groups and that any differences shown on a test must therefore be effects of bias. As noted by Reynolds, Lowe, et al. (1999), an a priori acceptance of either position is untenable from a scientific standpoint.

Some authors add that the distributions of test scores of each ethnic group, not merely the means, must be identical before one can assume that a test is fair. Identical distributions, like equal means, have limitations involving accuracy. Such alterations correct for any source of score differences, including those for which the test is not responsible. Equal scores attained in this way necessarily depart from reality to some degree.

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