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Bias in kindergarten ability group placement: Does parental lobbying make it worse? Do formal assessments make it better?

Von Hippel & Cañedo (2021) reported that US kindergarten teachers placed girls, Asian-Americans, and children from families of high socioeconomic status (SES) into higher ability groups than their test scores alone would warrant. The results fit the view that teachers were biased.

This comment asks whether parents’ lobbying for higher placement might explain these results. The answer, for the most part, is no. Measures of parent-teacher contact explained little variation in children’s ability group placement, and did not account for the higher placement of girls, Asian-Americans, or high-SES children. In fact, Asian-American parents had less teacher contact than did white children. It appears that the biases observed by von Hippel & Cañedo resided primarily in teachers, not in parents.

We also ask whether teachers who used more objective assessment techniques were less biased in placing children into higher and lower ability groups. The answer, again, was no. Unfortunately, biases persisted in the face of objective information about students’ skill. Fortunately, the biases were not terribly large.

Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
10.26300/n2d4-z467

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Cañedo, Ana P., and Paul T. von Hippel. (). Bias in kindergarten ability group placement: Does parental lobbying make it worse? Do formal assessments make it better?. (EdWorkingPaper: 22-576). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/n2d4-z467

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