Redefining Fairness in High School Equivalency Tests: The Case of Incarcerated Youth
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
When evaluating the validity and fairness of a test, one must simultaneously evaluate the assumptions regarding the test’s domain, its use, and the inferences drawn from its scores (Kane, 2013). In the development of any HSE, we must examine how tests will be used by test takers and interpreted by those who receive the scores. In doing so, it is critical to explore the characteristics of the test-taking population and their motivation for taking the test to ensure that the test is appropriately designed to measure what it purports to measure. We also need to consider the institutions that will receive these scores, and the ways in which these scores will be used for decision-making.
This paper describes the educational characteristics of incarcerated youth, exploring their reasons for taking HSEs and the kinds of accommodations they may need in order for the test to serve as a meaningful credential. We also consider the recipients of the scores, namely colleges/universities and increasingly, the workforce, because although dropouts report that they take the test in order to gain entry into postsecondary institutions, only 30-35% of GED holders obtain any postsecondary education (Tyler, 2001). This exploration is done in the context of the development of a new high school equivalency test, the HiSET, currently in use in fourteen states. As ETS continues to develop and refine the test, we consider the issue of validity when assessing incarcerated youth, and propose modifications that enable us to reconstruct a definition of fairness while holding these populations accountable for what they know. The paper makes recommendations that reconceptualize the design, implementation, and scoring aspects of a next-generation assessment to reflect the needs and abilities of incarcerated youth.