Top UC officials and scholars convened at UCSB this weekend for a conference to discuss the SAT and to try to answer who should be admitted into the UC and by what standards.
“Re-thinking the SAT” was held November 16 and 17 in response to University of California President Richard Atkinson’s proposal to eliminate the SAT I as a requirement for admission into the UC. Some critics of the proposal have alleged that Atkinson was trying to go around Proposition 209 to bolster minority admissions numbers and that he is against standardized testing. Atkinson responded to misconceptions about his proposal and said he is not against all standardized testing, but thinks the University needs to review which test it uses.
“I sometimes worry that the SAT I has selected students that have a particular mental style and possibly selects out against students who have somewhat more of a deliberative, more analytical approach to educational issues,” he said. “And I think both are important.”
The SAT was created in 1926 and was based off an IQ test given to military personnel. Atkinson said studies since that time have shown that intelligence tests should be applied to students to detect some other mental ability, rather than to test a student already performing well.
“This country was very much swept up in the concept of the intelligence test,” he said. “I just think that we went off in the wrong direction, and people for a while really believed that scientific evidence really justified some notion of defined mental ability as defined by these tests.”
Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, which administers the SAT, said the test has changed since the earlier tests and can now measure how students will process information.
“What it was 60 years ago then and what it is today is as different as what a Chevrolet was 60 years ago and is today,” he said
Atkinson said studies have shown that the writing sample, required for all applicants, is the best indicator of college performance.
The Academic Senate’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) is currently working on a set of principals to generate a policy on the SAT, which should be ready by winter quarter. The policy will go before the Regents in its May or July meeting, Student Regent Tracy Davis said.
At the conference, Davis said she was surprised by the general consensus regarding the need to explore other admissions requirements besides the SAT.
“The only groups arguing for the use of the SAT are the testing companies themselves,” she said.
One forum looked at alternatives to admissions that other colleges use. Christina Perez, a testing reform advocate for FairTest, said the University of Texas dropped a standardized test requirement and admits students in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes instead. As a result, Perez said the amount of minority students applying doubled in the first five years.
“The FairTest position is not that the SAT I … should be banished from the earth,” she said, “but rather that we make it optional in the admissions position.”