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UC Faculty Panel Urges New Admissions Test

Education: Group says SAT I exam should be scrapped for one that measures what students learned in high school.

January 31, 2002|REBECCA TROUNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A key faculty committee of the University of California has recommended that the university drop the SAT I college admissions test in favor of developing an exam more closely aligned with high school course work.

University officials said the proposal by a committee of the university's systemwide Academic Council will now go through a faculty review at UC campuses before final consideration by the Board of Regents, probably in July.

The committee recommendation is a significant step in a process launched nearly a year ago, when UC President Richard Atkinson sent shock waves through the higher education community nationwide with a proposal to scrap the SAT I as a requirement for UC admission.

Atkinson said then--and even more forcefully in the months since--that the test, long considered the "gold standard" in college admissions, is unfair to many students and fails to measure how much they learned in high school.

Instead, Atkinson says he wants a test closely aligned with California state standards for a high school diploma that attempts to measure a student's general aptitude for college. The SAT I measures general aptitude in verbal and math skills. The SAT II measures knowledge of specific subjects.

In its proposal, the faculty committee--the university's influential Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools--recommended that the University of California work separately with the nation's two top testing agencies, ACT Inc. and the College Board, which owns the SAT, to develop a new admissions test.

Both said Wednesday that they would work with UC to develop a new test.

The committee said the proposed three-hour test should be based on California public school curriculum and should measure a student's mastery of reading, writing and math, the fundamental skills needed at the university.

No test now available meets those specifications, the committee said in its report, which was discussed Wednesday by the Academic Council.

Dorothy Perry, who chairs the committee, said its members believed strongly that standardized tests should continue to play a role in the university's admissions process: the new three-hour test, for example, along with two one-hour exams in specific subjects.

UC applicants now are required to take either the SAT I aptitude test or the ACT achievement test, in addition to three SAT II achievement tests. But many more applicants--about 73% of last year's total--choose to take the SAT I. Far more college admissions rely on SAT scores rather than ACT scores.

ACT President Richard Ferguson, who returned to Iowa City on Wednesday after meetings with UC officials, said that the proposal was "exceedingly positive" from his perspective, and that the current ACT test--with the addition of a writing sample--seemed likely to meet UC's needs.

College Board spokeswoman Chiara Coletti said her company viewed the proposal as an "exciting opportunity," but said she hoped it would not create confusion for college applicants and their parents.

Coletti also said there is no indication that other universities would follow UC in moving away from the SAT I. "The vast majority are very, very partial" to the test, she said.

The UC committee recommended that the new test, if approved, should go into effect for the freshman class entering in the fall of 2006, at the earliest. Perry said the committee recommended that UC stick with the current testing requirements while the new test is being developed.

In addition, the committee said the new test should be formulated so scores can be translated into equivalent SAT I or the ACT results. This would keep California students from having to take those tests to apply to other schools, the committee said.

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