BERKELEY -- I recently suggested to the University of California Regents that the Scholastic Assessment Test's role in admissions be diminished. The response has astonished me.
not about lowering standards. It's about insuring that all high-achieving students get a fair
chance at the opportunities of a good college education. To do this, we must revisit how we
define and measure academic merit.
advanced on parallel tracks in the 1960's and 1970's. The reliance on affirmative action to
redress past inequities hid the damaging effects of overrelying on the S.A.T., a tool created for
admissions officers inundated with applications from the baby boom generation. The University of California adopted the S.A.T. in 1968. By 1979, the test had evolved into a vaulting pole that could benefit ostensibly bright students with poorer grades. By the mid-1980's, the university was placing equal weight on S.A.T. scores and grade point averages.
Latino students. We found that the percentage of Latino and African-American high school graduates in California eligible for admission would double if the S.A.T.'s were eliminated. These students meet all the other prescribed standards -- for instance, a minimum 3.3 G.P.A. in certain required courses.
migrant worker's child who has excelled in academics, shown leadership ability and performed community service as meritorious as a prep-school graduate with a similar G.P.A. but no evidence of leadership? Now, what if the migrant student's S.A.T. is 100 points below that of the prep-school student, whose parents probably sent him to an expensive S.A.T. course? The
prep school may grade more rigorously, but relying on the S.A.T. to account for grading
differences ignores the obstacles the migrant student had to overcome to shine at a poorer
G.P.A., won state awards for dancing and served in student government. But she scored
poorly on the S.A.T. and wondered if she should even apply to a "good" university.
Undoubtedly, there are many others like her who have questioned their self-worth after such
an experience. University admissions boards, looking at her S.A.T. scores, may indeed be
skeptical of this student's academic merit.
performance as well as resourcefulness in overcoming adversity. Better yet, universities could adopt new tests tied to state academic standards for secondary schools, standards that have been adopted and used to guide teacher licensing. More than 30 states are developing tests aligned with such standards. Universities could also switch from aptitude tests like the S.A.T. to tests that measure knowledge, like the New York State Regents exams.
action under attack across the country, they should be taken much more seriously.
Berkeley at the time of this writing.
Copyright 1997 The New York Times
More information on Eugene Garcia can be found here.