UC faculty committee proposes dropping SAT I
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — The push to drop the SAT I as a University of California admissions requirement gained momentum Wednesday when a key faculty committee proposed developing new entry exams tailored to state curriculum.
The recommendation is tentative and it will be months before it could come up for a vote before the UC Board of Regents, which has final say. But as the largest user of the SAT, UC’s decision has national reverberations.
“What we are trying to do is establish a testing array that is not only curriculum-related, but that helps students to assess their strengths and weaknesses,” said Dorothy Perry, a UC San Francisco professor and chair of the faculty committee.
The impetus for scrapping the SAT I comes from UC President Richard C. Atkinson, who a year ago asked faculty to consider trying something else. Atkinson said overemphasis on the SAT I, the two-part verbal and math test taken by about 2 million high school students nationally each year, is distorting educational priorities. He also noted the test has been criticized as unfair to some groups.
On Wednesday, a faculty committee on admissions requirements responded to Atkinson’s suggestion with a discussion paper that was presented to the systemwide Academic Council.
In their paper, committee members laid out a series of proposed new testing standards and said no current test, including the SAT I, meets those requirements. The committee recommended coming up with a new test based on what is taught in California schools.
The committee said the two major testing agencies, the makers of the SAT and its chief competitor, the ACT, are interested in working with UC on new entrance exams.
UC, with about 170,000 students, is the largest user of the SAT. It also accepts the ACT, although most students take the SAT.
Although they’re willing to work with UC, rivals SAT and ACT have no plans to work with each other.
ACT Inc. President Richard Ferguson said the recommended standards are “what we have been doing for the last 40-plus years.” He believes the ACT Assessment could qualify with the simple addition of a writing sample requirement.
Chiara Coletti, vice president for public affairs for the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT, said the board is willing to work with UC on drafting a new test. However, she disagrees that the SAT I is flawed.
“We have enormous faith in it and so do the vast majority of our members,” she said.
Faculty members are expected to take several months to review the proposal. If they agree, the issue will go before the UC Board of Regents, possibly this summer.
The idea of dropping the SAT I faces some opposition from within the UC system.
UCLA Professor Matthew Malkan sees the proposal as potentially lowering academic standards.
“There’s not a huge problem with the current system that is so broke that it needs a radical fix,” he said.
At the heart of the debate over the SAT I is the question of achievement versus aptitude tests.
Critics say the SAT I, which attempts to measure math and verbal reasoning skills, tries to measure general aptitude, a concept they say is widely discredited.
The SAT I is the best known of the college board tests. There also are several SAT II tests in various individual subjects. UC currently requires both SAT I and SAT II tests.
Curriculum-based tests, on the other hand, cover subjects taught in the classroom.
Defenders of the SAT acknowledge it has its roots in aptitude tests decades ago. But they say it has since developed into a sophisticated test of learning skills that provides a leveler to compensate for grade inflation or differences in classroom methods.
Students taking the SAT I are “not really penalized by their geography or the type of school they went to because these are basic skills that transcend the different curriculums,” Coletti said.
Atkinson had suggested using the SAT II tests, which are subject specific, as an interim measure.
But the faculty committee recommended coming up with entirely new tests.
They proposed a core test that should take about three hours to complete and should cover reading and writing, including a writing sample and mathematics. The committee estimates it would take about two years to produce and would go into effect no earlier than 2006.
The committee also is recommending that students take two one-hour examinations centered on specific subjects. Those tests would be drawn from the subjects UC requires applicants to take in high school.
On the Net:
UC discussion paper and other documents, http://www.ucop.edu/news/sat/boars.html