Test graders show bias

In a study in India, teachers hired as test graders gave higher scores when the student was identified as high caste, lower scores to low-caste students, reports Inside School Research.

The Harvard study tested elementary and middle-school students in mathematics, language and art.

The tests, however, were randomly assigned different student characteristics. One student, for instance, would be listed on a cover sheet as a member of the Brahmin caste, the highest of India’s four social groups, while another might be described as being in the lowest caste, the Shudra. The tests were also graded separately by a research staff member who had no knowledge of any of the students’ characteristics.

As might be expected, the results showed that teachers, on average, assigned scores to students from low castes that were 3 percent to 9 percent lower than those of students who were described as being from a high-caste group. What was particularly interesting, though, was that teachers from low-caste groups were driving most of that discrimination; no evidence of bias could be found for teachers from high-caste groups. And they tended to direct it most often toward the lowest-performing students in the low-caste group—the students who presumably best fit the stereotype.

Gender didn’t influence grades, except for “the highest-performing girls, who were graded slightly more harshly than their high-performing male counterparts,” writes Debbie Viadero.

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