Thursday, March 4, 2021

Chitling Test misused, badly, in a Maryland school


According to a report in the Capital Gazette, students at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Md., were given an ungraded “test” in late August that contained insensitive remarks about African Americans.

Parents were outraged and called on the state superintendent of schools and the attorney general to conduct an investigation into the choice by a teacher at the high school to distribute the test. The test isn’t part of the standard curriculum and was given to students during their “advisory” period. Still, the principal said she didn’t know the test was distributed, and the school system’s Office for Civil Rights has called the distribution of the test “racially inflammatory, discriminatory, and highly insensitive.”

The test is known as the “Chitling Test.” It was developed in 1968 as the short form of a test known as The Dove Counterbalance Intelligence Test, which was developed in 1967 by African-American sociologist Adrian Dove. This forward-thinking sociologist developed it to demonstrate the folly of evaluating black children by using tests that relied so heavily on white middle-class values and language. During the 1950s and 1960s, intelligence tests, like those Mr Dove opposed, were used to classify black children as “culturally deprived” or “mentally retarded.”

He created the Chitling Test for use in teacher education programs. Colleges and universities hoped it would sensitize future teachers to the known problems of standardized tests, including linguistic bias and cultural stereotyping. Nobody, especially not Mr Dove, even tried to make the test unbiased or fair. It was designed to teach future teachers a lesson about bias in standardized tests.

Cultural and linguistic biases plague many of the standardized tests used to hold schools and states accountable under the No Child Left Behind law, although many statisticians say the tests aren’t biased. Others suggest that if a black—or other minority—student wants to get the same job as a white student, he has to pass the same test a white student has to pass. These arguments have their place in our debate, but the Chitling Test is a completely different response to the known biases in the exams, despite its development several decades before No Child Left Behind became part of our national lexicon.

What if we took all these white middle-class future teachers and showed them what it was like to take a test that was biased in favor of a culture that was not their own? What if it used language that relied on words they had never spoken? What a great way to teach them, firsthand, how black children feel when they take a test that is biased in favor of white middle-class culture and uses words that young black students have never heard!

A sample question: Hattie Mae Johnson is on the County. She has four children and her husband is now in jail for non-support, as he was unemployed and was not able to give her any money. Her welfare check is now $286 per month. Last night she went out with the highest player in town. If she got pregnant, then nine months from now how much more will her welfare check be?

A spokesperson for the school system tried to downplay the events. “The material used certainly struck a sensitive chord with some students and parents, but to suggest that the material was used in a way that was racially motivated is simply not true,” the paper quoted Bob Mosier as saying.

A test biased in favor of Hispanics was published in the May 1, 2008, edition of Phi Delta Kappan. It is reprinted below with the permission of Phi Delta Kappa, and we convey their permission to reprint it for nonprofit purposes only. Without the guidance of administrators at a school, do not distribute it to students. That being said, there are valuable lessons to be learned here about standardized tests. About racism, I would say this test—and the Chitling Test, after which it was modeled—teach us very little.

1. Aztlan is:
a. A territory created by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
b. A popular Mexican fastfood chain
c. The Mexican capital of the Republic of Chino
d. The mythic native land of the Aztecs
e. A resort on the Mexican Riviera

2. Cesar Chavez is best known as:
a. A fictional character in the Zorro movies
b. The first Chicano representative to the U.S. Congress
c. A writer known for his best seller, Letters from the Fields
d. Lead guitarist for Santana
e. A union leader who organized farm workers

3. Cinco de Mayo is:
a. A celebration of the beginning of spring in Mexico
b. A celebration of Mexican Independence Day
c. A Mexican military victory over the French at Puebla
d. A Mexican salad dressing
e. A celebration of Mexican St. Patrick’s Day

4. Dolores Huerta is:
a. A well-known newscaster on Telemundo
b. The mother of the Chicano movement
c. The most recognized Chicana in advertising
d. A successful Latina business executive
e. A popular telenovela star

5. A gabacho is a:
a. Vegetable
b. Cowboy
c. Fruit
d. White male
e. Horse rider

6. “!Huelga!” means:
a. “Strike!”
b. “Careful!”
c. “Watch out!”
d. “Halt!”
e. “Stop!”

7. El Chupacabra is a:
a. Decorated pinata
b. Man’s belt buckle
c. Mythical devil
d. Famous racehorse
e. Movie hero

8. La Llorona:
a. Lights the way for travelers
b. Cries for her children whom she killed
c. Is a sign of the four seasons
d. Prays and cares for the safety of the family
e. Stands for anger and revenge

9. La Raza means:
a. The politics
b. The public
c. The family
d. The nation
e. The race

10. El Norte refers to:
a. The North Pole
b. Canada
c. Alaska
d. The United States
e. Baja California

11. La Virgen de Guadalupe is the:
a. Bridge between EI Paso and Juarez
b. Sign of a good autumn harvest
c. Child who represents innocence
d. Final stop before crossing into the U.S.
e. Patron saint of Mexico

12. MEChA is a:
a. Legal assistance group
b. Student activist group
c. Federal aid group
d. Business support group
e. Political immigration group

13. Menudo is:
a. Breakfast of Champions
b. Dark chocolate candy
c. Music played at a wedding
d. A form of self-defense
e. An iron cooking skillet

14. An Americanized Mexican is known as a:
a. Pachuco
b. Pocho
c. Tio
d. Muchacho
e. Primo

15. Which word is out of place here?
a. Nopales
b. Caldo
c. Chancla
d. Chalupa
e. Chorizo

16. The word that does not fit is:
a. Curandero
b. Estupido
c. Tonto
d. Pendejo
e. Baboso

17. Quetzalcoatl is:
a. The patron saint of the poor
b. Clothing worn by peasants
c. A small restaurant with home cooking
d. The Mayan leader who fought Cortez
e. An Aztec god

18. A Quinceanera is a:
a. Place of worship for lost children
b. Group of small family farms
c. Festival of lights during January
d. Fifteenth birthday celebration
e. Strong herb used for healing

19. September 16th is:
a. President’s Day in Mexico
b. The running of the bulls
c. Mexican Independence Day
d. Dia de los Muertos
e. Registration day for voting

20. “Si se puede” means:
a. “Yes, we can.”
b. “My house is your house.”
c. “I am somebody.”
d. “Keep hope alive.”
e. “Choose wisely.”

21. The Battle of the Alamo was:
a. A major victory for the Republic of Texas
b. An attempt to rid Mexico of illegal Americans
c. The beginning of the Mexican Revolution
d. Fought by American Minutemen
e. A defeat for Mexican General Santa Ana

22. What term does not fit with the rest?
a. Vato
b. Amigo
c. Carnal
d. Ese
e. Patron

23. La migra is:
a. Spanish for “Minutemen”
b. A group of undocumented workers
c. A street gang from East Los Angeles
d. The immigration enforcement patrol
e. The most vocal Mexican political group

24. Rio Bravo is:
a. The Mexican Medal of Honor
b. A rich Mexican landowner
c. The same as Rio Grande
d. A well-known Mexican cowboy movie
e. A popular Mexican play performed outside

25. Nochebuena is another name for:
a. Poinsettia
b. “El Che”
c. Corona beer
d. Disneyland
e. Night of the Kings

HOW DID YOU DO? … 1. d … 2. e … 3. c … 4. b … 5. d … 6. a … 7. c … 8. b … 9. e … 10. d … 11. e … 12. b … 13. a … 14. b … 15. c … 16. a … 17. e … 18. d … 19. c … 20. a … 21. b … 22. e … 23. d … 24. c … 25. a

Recommended readings include:

  • Adrian Dove, “The Dove Counterbalance Intelligence Test,” New Republic, vol. 157, 1967, p 7.
  • Gutierrez, Jose Angel. A Gringo Manual on How to Handle Mexicans. 2nd ed. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2001.
  • —. A Chicano Manual on How to Handle Gringos. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2003.
Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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