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Contact: Donald C. Orlich, professor emeritus, 509/ 335-4844,

Parental Income Linked to Students’ Standardized Test Results

PULLMAN, Wash. - Poverty appears to play a major role in depressing ACT and SAT test scores. In a paper presented by Donald C. Orlich, professor emeritus at Washington State University, he and his collaborators found a correlation between students' scores and parental income.

"The .97 correlation is extremely high and illustrates that parental income can account for 80 percent of the variance in those college entry exams. As a child's parental income goes up, so do the ACT and SAT scores, and vice-versa," said Orlich.

His paper, "Poverty, Ethnicity and High-Stakes Tests: A Challenge for Social and Educational Justice?" was delivered at the Washington State Children's Justice Conference in Seattle on March 27.

During his presentation, Orlich also talked about the impact that parental income has on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). He compared all the WASL scores for children in the State of Washington who are on free and/or reduced lunch to the WASL scores of all children in Mercer Island. "The children in Mercer Island outscored the poorer children in the state by as much as 60 percent. If one plotted these scores on a normal curve it would show a two standard deviation difference in favor of Mercer Island," he said.

Data were also presented showing how minority and disabled children fall far behind in high-stakes tests when compared to white children.

"The plethora of state-high-stakes-tests has created a new dilemma: achieving social justice in the public schools," said Orlich. "The poor, disfranchised, minority and disabled children have fallen into education's 'achievement gap.' Perhaps the Carnegie Corporation might commission a 21st Century study to alert and sensitize policy-makers that a new dilemma now haunts our nation."

Orlich said that the WASL and other high-stakes tests can have detrimental effects on poor children by instituting class-warfare and creat­ing a permanent "underclass with a hint of institutional racism."

"Given the widespread use of tests to sort and/or classify students, the socioeconomic, social class and ethnicity status of students needs to be analyzed for apparent test bias by the educational com­munity, policy-makers and those who work in the social justice arena," he said. "Further, all those working with youth need to be aware of providing 'social capital' to all."

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