On the Influence of the Army Alpha 'Intelligence Test'
The shaping of curriculum and pedagogy according to preconceptions about children's abilities limits the achievement of at-risk students, Patricia Albjerg Graham suggests in a forthcoming study for the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Ms. Graham, dean of the graduate school of education at Harvard University, traces back to research from the 1920's the origins of the notion that education should be adjusted to students' perceived ability levels.
In that research, she notes, psychologists analyzing the results of the first "intelligence tests" widely administered in the United States--the Army Group Examination Alpha, developed to evaluate recruits during World War I--found patterns that seemed to indicate an ethnic determinism in intelligence.
Because the findings appeared "scientific," Ms. Graham says, they reinforced the influential advice of Charles William Eliot, who, while president of Harvard, had recommended that elementary-school teachers "sort the pupils ... by their evident or probable destinies."
The poor performance of some groups on the tests "gave educators justification for not pursuing those children's schooling assiduously," concludes Ms. Graham in her study, to be published later this year.
Today's prevailing system of evaluating and addressing the needs of students is, she suggests, the "legacy" of such subjective, culture-bound tests as the Army Alpha exam and educators' faith in their validity.
If schools are to improve the performance of at-risk children, Ms. Graham argues, educators must develop a curriculum worthy of mastery by all students. And they must radically transform current teaching methods so that all children can achieve that mastery. Students' effort, she contends, is a more important factor than their ability in determining academic achievement.
Of the Army Alpha subtests, Ms. Graham says, the following section, Test 8, was the most similar in its cultural bias to "achievement" examinations later developed to assess student ability:
.The pitcher has an important place in tennis football baseball
.Cribbage is played with rackets mallets dice cards.
.The Holstein is a kind of cow horse sheep goat.
.The most prominent industry of Chicago is packing brewing automobiles flour.
.The topaz is usually red yellow blue green.
.The Plymouth Rock is a kind of horse cattle granite fowl.
.Irving Cobb is famous as a baseball player actor writer artist.
8.Clothing is made by Smith & Wesson Kuppenheimer B.T. Babbitt Swift & Co.
9.Carrie Chapman Catt is known as a singer writer nurse
0."The flavor lasts" is an "ad" for chewing gum drink health food fruit.
1.Timothy is a kind of corn rye wheat hay.
2.Kale is a fish lizard vegetable snake.
3.The U.S. Naval Academy is at West Point Annapolis New Haven Ithaca.
4.Rio de Janeiro is a city of Spain Argentina Portugal Brazil.
5.Emeralds are obtained from elephants mines oysters reefs.
6.John Sargent is famous as a sculptor author painter poet.
7.The iguana is a reptile bird fish insect.
8.The clavicle is in the shoulder head abdomen neck.
9.Karo is a patent medicine disinfectant toothpaste food product.
0.Eucalyptus is a kind of machine tree drink fabric.
1.The carbine is a kind of pistol cannon musket sword.
2.The multigraph is a kind of typewriter pencil copying machine phonograph.
3.Magenta is a fabric drink food color.
4.The piccolo is used in music stenography bookbinding lithography.
5.Cambric is a dance fabric food color.
6.The author of "Treasure Island" is Poe Stevenson Kipling Hawthorne.
7.Blackstone is most famous in law literature science religion.
8.The spark plug belongs in the crankcase manifold carburetor cylinder.
9.The Bartlett is a kind of fruit fish fowl cattle.
0.Kelvin was most famous in politics war science literature.
1.Little Nell appears in Vanity Fair Romola The Old Curiosity Shop Henry IV.
2.The number of a Papuan's legs is two four six eight.
3.Arson is a term used in medicine law theology pedagogy.
4.The silo is used in fishing farming hunting athletics.
5.A puck is used in tennis football hockey golf.
6.Dewey defeated the Spanish fleet in Newport News Boston Harbor China Sea Manila Bay.
7.The volt is used in measuring electricity wind power rainfall water power.
8.The Packard car is made in Detroit Buffalo Toledo Flint.
9.The Cooper Hewitt lamp used the vapor of gasoline mercury tungsten alcohol.
0.A regular five-sided figure is scalene rhomboid equilateral elliptical.