Improving Adolescents' Standardized Test Performance: An Intervention to Reduce the Effects of Stereotype Threat
This paper reported the results of interventions designed to improve performance of junior high students on standardized tests using techniques that have been shown to increase enjoyment, valuing of education, and grades in other studies (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002; Wilson & Linville, 1985). Seventh grade students received a college-aged mentor for a full academic year with whom they discussed adjusting to a new school environment and effective strategies for studying. Different mentors, however, had been directed to introduce other issues for discussion. One group emphasized the expandable nature of intelligence and the plasticity of the brain and neural development over life. A second group emphasized that students often experience difficulty transitioning to a new school and that these challenges are typically overcome with time, thereby providing an unstable, external attribution for academic struggle. A third group of mentors emphasized both messages. Subsequent performance on a statewide standardized tests of math and reading of students in these three conditions were compared with the performance of a control group whose mentors emphasized an anti-drug message. Results showed that males outperformed females in math in the control condition, but there were no significant differences between boys' and girls' scores in the other three conditions. For reading, mentoring emphasizing expandable intelligence and external attributions for difficulty produced higher scores than the control condition, but the combined message did not produce a significant difference compared with the control condition. This study demonstrates that interventions that have been shown to reduce stereotype threat in laboratory settings can be utilized to improve performance in real-world contexts and to eliminate group differences in performance on standardized tests.