The possibility that certain features of items on a
reading comprehension test may lead to biased estimates
of the reading achievement of particular subgroups
of students was investigated. Eight nonoverlapping
subgroups of students were defined by the
combinations of three factors: student grade level
(fifth or sixth), income level of the neighborhood in
which the school was located (low and middle or
above), and race of the student (black or white). Estimates
of student ability and item parameters were
obtained separately for each of the eight subgroups
using the three-parameter logistic model. Bias indices
were computed based on differences in item
characteristic curves for pairs of subgroups. A criterion
for labeling an item as biased was developed
using the distribution of bias indices for subgroups
of the same race that differed only in income level
or grade level. Using this criterion, three items were
consistently identified as biased in four independent
comparisons of subgroups of black and white students.
Comparisons of content and format characteristics
of items that were identified as biased with
those that were not, or between items biased in different
directions, did not lead to the identification
of any systematic content differences. The study did
provide strong support for the viability of the estimation
procedure; item characteristics, estimated
with samples from different populations were very
similar. Some suggestions for improvements in
methodology are offered.
Linn, Robert L, Levine, Michael V, Hastings, C. Nicholas & Wardrop, James L. (1981). Item bias in a test of reading comprehension. Applied Psychological Measurement, 5, 159-173. doi:10.1177/014662168100500202
Linn, Robert L.; Levine, Michael V.; Hastings, C. Nicholas; Wardrop, James L..
Item bias in a test of reading comprehension.
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