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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Time as a “Built-In Headwind”: The Disparate Impact of Portfolio Cross-assessment on Black TYC students

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This study of a departmental portfolio cross-assessment practice sheds light on factors that appear to influence assessment outcomes for Black students and helps to tease out some of the reasons why this assessment ecosystem has a disparate impact on these students. The findings, drawn from student outcomes data and student survey data,  suggest that it isn’t only, or even primarily, Black students’ linguistic variety that lead to higher failure rates. The writing qualities most commonly flagged on Black students’ failing portfolios are likely related to the very different material conditions in which they write their papers. These conditions challenge the framing of “time” and “labor” as neutral, non-racially-inflected resources to which all students have equal access and which are not often conceptualized as part of the construct of writing ability. As TYCs across the country reform their placement mechanisms for greater access and equity and place more and more students of color into their credit-bearing FYC 1 courses, we have an ethical obligation to watch for disparate impact created by our pre-existing assessment ecosystems.

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