Employers and educational institutions adopted, or continued to use formal and informal tests that selected against women and members of minority groups.
Employers maintained that it was their right to use whatever means they chose to screen applicants for jobs. The purpose of the tests, they said, was not to exclude minority group members or women, but to assure them of getting the best talent available. In an important case, the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) took Motorola to court in the early 1960s. The FEPC claimed that the "general aptitude test" Motorola was giving to potential employees were "culturally discriminatory" (Business Week, 1965, pp. 45-46). Following that case and a number of other cases the law now recognizes the possibility that a test--however well intended--may unfairly discriminate against persons because of their ethnic background or sex.
Tests are not banned, but they are required to meet several standards. In particular, they must meet certain standards of validity (Calvert, 1979, pp. 273-274). Most importantly, they must have predictive validity; that is, they must demonstrably predict later job performance. In part as a way of meeting the criterion of predictive validity, pre-employment tests must have content validity, meaning that their content is in some way representative of the knowledge and duties of the job for which they are a test. (The third type of validity standard that tests must ordinarily meet, construct validity, is of primary relevance to instruments used in basic research and not in employment or educational testing.)
Both the government and those who design standardized tests take seriously the need for valid tests. Nevertheless, it is probably true that many tests currently in use by employers are discriminatory for a number of reasons. Minority group members, for example, because of having been excluded from opportunities in the past, have little cultural ...
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