Motivation Gap

Another explanation that has been suggested for racial and ethnic differences in standardized test performance is that some minority children may not be motivated to do their best on these assessments. Many argue that standardized IQ tests and other testing procedures are culturally biased toward the knowledge and experiences of the European-American middle class.

Claude M. Steele suggested that minority children and adolescents may also experience stereotype threat--the fear that they will be judged to have traits associated with negative appraisals and/or stereotypes of their race or ethnic group. According to this theory, this produces test anxiety and keeps them from doing as well as they could on tests. According to Steele, minority test takers experience anxiety, believing that if they do poorly on their test they will confirm the stereotypes about inferior intellectual performance of their minority group. As a result, a self-fulfilling prophecy begins, and the child performs at a level beneath his or her inherent abilities.