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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

What’s Wrong with “Standardized” Testing

standardized test

Teaching at Tougaloo College, 1968-75, made Loewen aware that “standardized” tests like the ACT and SAT have unfair impact on racial minorities, especially African Americans, Native Americans, and increasingly Latino Americans. Tougaloo produced students with fine minds and good skills who subsequently performed well in difficult graduate programs, yet scored below the national median on “standardized” multiple choice exams like the SAT and ACT. Subsequent research revealed that these tests also disadvantage women, non-affluent, and rural students.


Info. on the SAT and ACT put out by a tutoring company, from the Brandeis HS website in San Antonio. Such exposure to the tests and resources for preparation can impact test scores.

Loewen invented an “IQ” or “aptitude” test biased against affluent whites as a way to convince them that real tests are biased in favor of them. It got onto ABCTV’s “20/20” and influenced the above story in Atlantic Monthly.

Loewen regrets that he never published much on “standardized testing.” Some of his work is summarized in this government publication.

Loewen’s work on “standardized” tests continued to get cited fairly often, as recently as 2019.

Many embarrassing questions can be asked about the SAT. Taking them seriously, as we should, results in questioning the entire enterprise.

Look how race influcnced teacher expectations in recent work by Seth Gershenson and Nicholas Papageorge.