Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Deborah L. Bandalos

Jennifer Randall

Sara Finney

Dena Pastor


In the education system, there have historically been inequities that have severely disadvantaged Black students academically. One area in which these inequities surface is on writing assessments in the form of lower scores. I argue that because the U.S. education system is centered around Standard American English (SAE), it disadvantages those from different linguistic backgrounds, specifically Black students, as they are most likely to be speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Although there are theoretical justifications for this, past literature has not empirically tied inequities on writing assessments to Black students’ use of AAVE. The current study used Natural Language Processing (NLP) to quantify students’ use of grammatical features of AAVE (e.g., multiple negation, completive done) on the written component of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (N=21,420) to investigate how students’ use of AAVE impacted writing scores. The relationships between race, gender, economic disadvantage, AAVE use, and writing scores were examined using a path model analysis in Mplus Version 8.4. Based on the results of the path model, it was concluded that those who identified as males and those who were economically disadvantaged had higher frequencies of AAVE use and lower scores on writing in comparison to those who identified as females and those who were not economically disadvantaged. Contrary to the hypothesized negative effect, as AAVE increased writing score increased (b=.05, p <.001), but this parameter was small in magnitude and therefore ignorable. It was concluded that Black students received lower writing scores than white students, but based on the findings of the study, the score differences could not be attributed to Black students’ higher use of AAVE. Explanations for these unanticipated findings are explored and include assessment directions that may have limited the use of AAVE, concerns about the procedure used to measure AAVE, and assumptions made by the statistical model employed. Future research should continue to investigate the linguistic discrimination Black students experience as it relates to their use of AAVE and other factors mediating the relationship between race and writing, due to the presence of written components on consequential tests (SAT, GRE).



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