Topic 14: U.Cal is one step closer to eliminating SATs

Debate Question: Would it be ethical for the University of California to stop using the SATs?

Source: N/A

U.Cal is one step closer to eliminating SATs - A University of California system committee has recommended developing a new achievement test.
By David Rutenberg
February 01, 2002

The University of California system came one step closer to abandoning the sometimes-controversial SAT I requirement Wednesday when a committee recommended the development of a new achievement test. The university system's faculty-based Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools concluded that they favored an achievement test as opposed to an aptitude test like the SAT I.

UC President Richard Atkinson came out last February encouraging the system to drop the SAT I.

According to the Office of the UC President's website, Atkinson delivered a speech last November in which he said that, while standardized tests can measure a student's achievements independent of a student's grades, the tests chosen to assess students must be carefully selected.

Though it is still unclear what -- if anything -- will replace the SAT I, the UC system is considering the development of a brand new admissions test.

The format for such a test is not near being finalized, but the College Board -- the company that administers the SAT I -- or its rival, ACT, Inc., may be asked to develop the exam.

"UC is still considering what kinds of tests it will use," College Board spokeswoman Chiara Coletti said. "This is a complex process."

Coletti said that it will be a difficult task because a replacement must be comparable to the SAT I so as not to worry other institutions still using that test, but must also be sufficiently different to fit UC's needs.

"We have to try to make whatever is developed equitable with the standard admission tests that the other universities used," she said. "The state of California has its own needs."

For most of its history, the SAT I was heralded as an equalizer for its supposed ability to even the playing field across different academic and ethnic lines. Recently, however, it has been criticized for failing as a fair representation of academic ability for all kinds of students.

Though it is still unclear what form of testing the UC system will use, Coletti said that UC should have a plan by this July and that a new test is expected by 2006 at the earliest.

Some schools, such as Bates College in Maine, have long deemed the SAT I optional in their admissions processes.

"Essentially, the SATs do not predict Bates' grade point averages for all of our students," Bates Dean of Admissions Wylie Mitchell said.

Bates conducted a series of studies in the 1980s and 1990s to determine whether SAT I scores served as a good prediction for students' grade point averages.

"The thing that jumped out was that there were some [high school] seniors who were right at the top of their class, and their SATs were all over," Mitchell said.

This data led Bates to give the applicants the decision to submit either SAT I or SAT II scores.

In another study, Bates divided its applicants into "submitters" and "nonsubmitters," those who had and had not submitted SAT I scores prior to admission.

"The submitters, when you look at their average SAT scores, had about 150 points higher than the nonsubmitters," Mitchell said. "The grades that those two populations got in terms of Bates grades had almost no difference at all."

Mitchell said that the researchers did not have sufficient data to do a similar study on ACT scores. The ACT is predominately used in the Midwest, whereas the SAT I is typically used on the two coasts.

Despite questions about its usefulness in predicting a students' college performance, most institutions continue to use the SAT I as a required part of the application process, and Penn officials have said in the past that they will continue to use the test in the admission process.

"Eighty-four percent of the universities use the SAT I, and every indication we get is that it serves them well and they want to continue using it," Coletti said.

Last modified: Wed Sep 13 14:57:24 EDT 2000