Faculty Articles

Administering the test of adult basic education at intake: A biased marker of inmate ability

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Journal of Correctional Education





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Incarceration is an anxiety- and depression-inducing experience. These states are maximal at prison intake, when the offender is struggling to adjust to dramatic changes in daily life. At intake, offenders undergo a wide array of assessments, many of which determine the services and treatment that they will receive. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, offenders are mandated to take the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) at prison intake. This test plays a large part in dictating an offender's educational programming while incarcerated. However, the increased sensations of anxiety and depression may impair offenders' ability to accurately complete their assessments. Because an offender may perform uncharacteristically poorly at the intake test, they may then be assigned education that is inappropriate for their ability. The purpose of this study is to determine if TABE scores at intake differ from TABE scores after location to a more permanent facility. Methods: Archived data from the past 15 years were retrieved from the Virginia Department of Correctional Education database. Offenders were included who took the second test within a year of the first, and who (at the time of the second test) had not enrolled in any coursework. Results: Offenders' TABE scores improved from intake to their permanent setting an average of 18.5%. Conclusion: Test scores at the intake setting are not indicative of an individual's true ability.

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