After studying the average scores of the 1999 SAT II tests, an Irvine educator has declared the tests biased against African-American and Caucasian students.
David Benjamin, owner of a private education company called Ahead of the Class, said he believes the SAT II tests are unfair to African-Americans and Caucasians based on the third part of the test.
On the SAT II, all students take a math and writing test and are allowed to choose the third from tests including history, language, literature and sciences. Benjamin said that many bilingual students take the language test in their native language, while Caucasians and African-Americans cannot do the same.
“The second-language advantage on the SAT II will allow many bilingual students to gain an unfair advantage over other students in the UC admissions decision-making process,” he said.
Using data from 1999, Benjamin said he has found that Chinese students who were taking the Chinese exam scored an average of 747 out of 800, Korean students who took the Korean exam scored an average of 724 and Latino students who took the Spanish exam scored an average 683. Benjamin said Caucasian students who did not have a natural second language tended to take the American History exam and scored an average 574, while African-American students tended to take literature and scored an average of 493.
Michael Brown, a professor of education and chair of Admissions and Enrollment at UCSB, said Latinos and Asians usually opt for the language exam in the third achievement test.
“The third achievement test does indicate that Latinos and Asians are advantaged in terms of the third exam,” he said. “However, whites are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged.”
The UC has proposed dropping the SAT I as a requirement for admission and weighing the SAT II scores more heavily. UC officials said the SAT I has no significant link to the curriculum being taught in California high schools, and that they must rely on SAT II scores to determine student eligibility.
“SAT II scores combined with a student’s high-school GPA is a better predictor of how students will do in college or at a university than is the SAT I,” UC spokesperson Abby Lunardini said.
Benjamin said he has appeared before the UC Board of Regents twice and has sent a letter to UC President Richard Atkinsonabout his studies. Neither responded to him or his letter.
“Atkinson has this master plan in mind, and he didn’t want to deal with [the letter] and he basically ignored it,” Benjamin said.
Lunardini said Atkinson is a firm believer in standardized tests and is looking to create a new test to replace the SAT. For now, she said, the SAT II remains the best predictor of success in college.
“President Atkinson is aware of all the issues surrounding the proposal to drop the SAT I and he has reviewed and researched them with a team of people,” Lunardini said. “I think he is aware of the issue and that [Benjamin’s] characterization of him is an unfair one.”