Using Testing as a Mechanism for Selecting and Sorting Students
When single tests are used to track students into Title I programs, the consequences in terms of the quality of subsequent curriculum and instruction are striking. Winfield's (1987) study of Title I classrooms reveals that Title I teachers emphasized word-attack skills significantly more often than they did comprehension skills. Similarly, based on 15 years of study with second-language learners, Fillmore (1986) notes that second-language learners typically are served up a curriculum of basic skills rather than the types of higher-order thinking processes that are necessary to compete in the global marketplace. That is, reading instruction for these students emphasizes accuracy rather than understanding or appreciating text, and writing instruction focuses on precision in spelling, punctuation, and grammar rather than on communicating one's thoughts, ideas, and logic through the written word.
Because of the assumption that language-minority students cannot deal with the real content of school until they have mastered the school's language, real schoolwork for these students is delayed or is taught in isolated component parts that are unconnected to uses in the real world. However, Title I students do as well as the national sample on topics that receive the same coverage in the classroom. This result indicates that equity problems reside in what is taught and not in children's innate abilities, environment, or the tests they take.