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Antiracist Praxis

Antiracist Assessment by Sarah Trembath

Antiracist assessment may be best understood by first looking at racism in educational assessment. Assessment, in this sense, refers to any of the educational tools and practices that evaluate and label learners as proficient or even intelligent. These tests are broadly used on all levels of education and have long been known to be racially, culturally, and class biased and, therefore, implicated in institutionalized racism.

According to Critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw’s African American Policy Forum, educational testing itself started as a part of the deeply racist eugenics movement in the US. Psychometric experts with race and class privilege designed measures known as IQ tests and used them to classify people along a spectrum of their intelligence. The tests were culturally Eurocentric, and so White Americans consistently scored higher. This test and others like it “benefited White middle- and upper-class students to the exclusion of everyone else” (Inoue). Because of the deleterious effects of IQ testing and other race- and class-bound measures, educational reformers have long fought for their abolition or revision. Thus antiracist assessment is any act, tool, or pedagogical technique that mitigates the effects of racist educational evaluation. 

For some institutions, this means devaluing or de-requiring tests like the ACT and SAT. Or it could mean that schools and teachers come to “value the nonstandard knowledge some students bring. … In defining the skills that standards should require for all students, [educators] often ignore the fact that students negotiate different school and community contexts and that, in order to navigate those contexts successfully, they may need to have skills that rarely show up on typical assessments. Teachers can counter this problem by adopting a ‘ standards - plus” orientation . They can identify and record their students ’ unique or uncommon but academically relevant skills and review their own teaching practices to see if they ask students to display skills that they subsequently do not credit ” (Everyday antiracism loc 1949).

For others, like antiracist rhetoric and composition scholar Asao Inoue, addressing racism in educational assessment means abolishing rubrics and grades in the classroom altogether and instead using grading contracts for labor spent on various projects. It also means, to him, making race and class discussions part of classwork and laying bare the manner in which “discourses of Whiteness” are centered in educational settings and assignments. The dialogic relationship between student and teacher is important here for Inoue and other followers of the Paolo Friere’s “problem-posing pedagogy.” For them, the purpose of education is liberation, and student and teacher are co creators of knowledge, understanding, assessment, and growth.

Works Cited

Standardized Testing." The African American Policy Forum,

Canagarajah, A Suresh. “On EFL Teachers, Awareness, and Agency.” ELT Journal, vol.53, no. 3,1999.

Inoue, Asao. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. The WAC Clearinghouse, 2015.

Pollock, Mica, editor. Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in School. The New Press, 2005.