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ETS News & Insights


ETS Launches Institute Focused on Fairness and Equity in Education

Contact: Kristen Lacaillade
Phone: 609-524-8172


(Princeton, NJ – Jan. 21, 2020) – In support of ETS’s commitment to fairness and equity in assessment and learning, the organization announced today that it has launched a new research methodologies institute to investigate issues that affect inequality in educational outcomes, including poverty, structural stigma, and inequities in educational resources.

Michael Walker has been named Distinguished Presidential Appointee and Director of the Fairness and Equity Research Methodologies Institute, which will be housed within the Psychometrics, Statistics, & Data Sciences (PSDS) unit of ETS’s Research & Development (R&D) division.

“For the past 70 years, ETS has remained a leader in providing fair and equitable opportunities for learners worldwide,” said ETS President and CEO, Walt MacDonald. “Michael’s leadership of this new Institute will help us continue ETS’s legacy of high-quality, pioneering research, with a further strengthened emphasis on equity and fairness in the field of education.”

Walker and his team will:

  • examine the relationship between educational outcomes and factors including income disparity, race, gender, socioeconomic background, as well as gaps in educational outcomes;
  • examine both the role that structural stigma plays in assessment performance and models that take structural stigma into account when interpreting assessment results; and
  • investigate innovative methodologies for examining and improving fairness in assessment in the digital era.

Walker and his team will also conduct research on creating and maintaining testing programs as they relate to equity. This work will help to inform the educational community in developing strategies for closing achievement gaps and improve learning for all.

“I am pleased that Michael is leading this important work as we look to make a more marked impact on the educational assessment, measurement and learning communities that we serve,” said Kadriye Ercikan, vice president of PSDS. “Fairness and equity in education are areas ETS considers as fundamental to their use and remain vital to the future of assessment. It is important that we continue to lead the conversation and research to drive progress in these areas.”

Walker is returning to ETS from College Board, where he has been since 2013, most recently in the role of Executive Research Scientist where a large part of his work focused on differential performance of subgroups (sex, race/ethnicity, English learner status, disability status) on large-scale assessments.  He holds a Ph.D. in quantitative psychology from the University of Illinois.

The formation of the Institute is the latest addition to ETS’s extensive work to advance equity in education, including research and policy efforts aiming to better understand, explore and evaluate the challenges faced in education and society, while providing solutions and promoting improvement in the field.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead ETS’s new Fairness and Equity Research Methodologies Institute in undertaking this important work,” said Walker. “I hope that this Institute will serve to highlight and reinforce the historical focus on fairness and equity in education that continues to be at the core of ETS’s mission.”