The fate of standardized testing will be discussed during a conference at UCSB today and Saturday, two days after the University of California Regents adopted a new admissions policy that will put more emphasis on extracurricular activities.

“Re-thinking the SAT” will be the first installment of an annual conference organized by the UCSB Academic Senate Center for Faculty Outreach. In February, UC President Richard Atkinson proposed eliminating the SAT I as a basis for admission; the conference topic was selected in March following his proposal. Participants will look at research examining the SAT’s role in academia and listen to panel discussions.

Approximately 300 people are expected to attend, said UCSB Academic Senate Vice Chair Walter Yuen, one of the conference’s principal organizers.

“We want to bring together scholars who are knowledgeable about the use of the SAT as an evaluation component for University admission, educational policy makers and all stakeholders, including UC faculty, the body that is charged by the regents to determine admissions policy and selection procedures,” he said

The keynote speakers will be Atkinson and Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, the organization that oversees national objectivity in college admissions and the SAT, pre-SAT and Advanced Placement tests. Richard Ferguson, president of ACT, Inc., the organization that administers the ACT assessment test, will also be a featured speaker.

Representatives from each of the UC campuses, the UC Office of the President, major testing and test preparation organizations and participants from various universities and high schools will also be attending.

“Currently this seems to be the only major forum of which I am aware dedicated to discussing the role of standardized tests in University admissions,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said. “The conference should give us much to consider on this issue.”

The debate over the merits of the SAT has existed since the test’s inception in 1926 and was publicized in a 1999 PBS Frontline report. Some critics, like Atkinson, claim that the SAT measures knowledge that is not directly related to the high school curriculum. Groups such as the National Center for Fair & Open Testing in Massachusetts have argued that the test is unfair to minorities and the poor.

The College Board and Educational Testing Services (ETS) see the SAT as an objective standard of assessment that overcomes educational and grading differences inherent in high schools across the nation.

“The SAT is a common yardstick in an era where … students complete different courses with different teachers using different grading systems,” Caperton said in a February press release.

Faculty within the UC system have largely supported Atkinson’s initiative, said UC Office of the President spokesperson Lavonne Luquis.

“Overall … there’s a body of consensus that [eliminating the SAT] would be a good thing,” she said.

“Rethinking the SAT” organizers have planned to have all sides of the debate represented at the conference, Yuen said.

“We see this as a research meeting on the SAT in which people can listen to arguments from both sides of the issue and come to their own conclusions about the role of SAT in University admissions,” he said. “We … want the public to be aware of the arguments so that when the faculty makes its recommendation, and when the UC Regents adopt a position on the SAT, the public can be confident that the decision is based on the best data and the best research findings on the SAT.”

The SAT was first administered to high school students in 1926 by the College Board and a committee headed by Carl C. Brigham, a Princeton psychologist who had previously worked on an IQ test for army recruits. The test, then known as the Student Aptitude Test, continued to be developed and was used as a scholarship criterion for all Ivy League schools by the end of the 1930s. The goal of the test was to standardize admissions processes and, theoretically, to measure an applicant’s ability to succeed in a college setting.

In 1960, the UC made the tests mandatory for admission. In 1994, the test was renamed the Scholastic Assessment Test to avoid the negative implications of the word “aptitude” and to reflect the current claim that the SAT measures skills rather than intelligence.

In an effort to be accessible to students and the general public, the conference will be televised and shown live at the MultiCultural Center Theater on Friday. Admission will be free, though subject to seating availability. The meeting will also be webcast through the UCSB Bookstore website .