These assessment tools have given an inaccurate picture of “poor” children!
A new study finds inaccuracy of information from assessment tools among children from poor urban communities in the United States. These works, published in Developmental Science, suggest that these tools are fashioned on wealthier populations, usually white. More representative tools could therefore be used to calculate children’s thinking skills, called ” executive functions”.
Executive functions are high-level cognitive processes. They are essential to the performance of daily tasks and to learning. It’s about working memory, self-control, the ability to ignore distractions and move easily from one task to another.
Children with good executive functions more successful in the professional and social domains.
Executive functions manifest differently in different communities
To assess children’s executive functions, teachers fill out questionnaires about the behaviors they have observed. The results make it possible to identify children needing extra support. However, the researchers found that the screener executive functions of a version of the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC), called BASC-2, does not represent all students.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, approximately 14% of children of the United States live in poverty, including 71% come from ethnic minority families. Most psychometric research on executive functions is based on middle-income or affluent white families. Yet the different backgrounds and experiences of children suggest that executive functions manifest themselves differently in different groups.
BASC-3 was found to be more effective
During the study, the teachers evaluated the daily behaviors of the children on specific criteria. These analyzes are based on components of executive functions two versions of BASC which are BASC-2 and BASC-3. The researchers then extrapolated information about executive functions from the responses. The children also performed six computer tasks which make it possible to evaluate specific executive functions.
The research was carried out on 472 children aged 9 or 10, from public schools in very poor areas of the United States. They were divided into two groups. One was assessed using BASC-2, the other using BASC-3. Although BASC-2 provides a satisfactory overview of students’ general executive functions, it does not assess specific functions. the BASC-3 was more effectivebecause his questions are different and more targeted.
This assessment is one of many surveys that measure the cognitive development of children in different countries. Annie Zonneveld, of Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education and first author of the study, thinksit is important to know the basics of these toolsin order to determine whether they are truly representative or not.