- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2001

In his April 3 Op-Ed column, “SAT´s popularity test,” Marc Berley makes the misleading claim that “The president of the University of California, Richard C. Atkinson, has recommended that UC stop using the SAT in admissions decisions.”

In fact, Mr. Atkinson has proposed that the “SAT-I,” which the College Board says tests developed math and verbal reasoning ability, be replaced by the “SAT-II,” which measures achievement in individual subjects, such as English, writing, math, history, foreign languages, and biology, until the California system can develop its own standards for measuring what students have learned in high school. UC officials say their research shows that SAT-II subject tests are slightly better at predicting freshman grades than the SAT-I.

Mr. Berley concedes that Scholastic Assessment Tests are not perfect. The College Board, the association responsible for the SAT, has said for decades that the SAT was impervious to prep course coaching. But today, the prep and coaching market reaches 150,000 students a year, raking in more than $100 million. Studies have revealed that preparation courses can increase scores 100 points or more. Studies also correlate SAT scores with income, so courses priced beyond the economic means of poorer families simply increase the divide.

It is ironic that the first College Board tests were all essay format, in specific subjects, and were used as tools in a meritocracy. Today, however, college admissions officers are using the SAT as a barrier to opportunity.

The standard rationale for using the SAT is to predict scholastic performance. Females, however, score much lower on the test even though they earn higher grades than males in both high school and college. Many minorities, when given the opportunity, succeed in college despite the SAT´s prediction of failure.

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans love equality and liberty but that they love equality more. Mr. Berley added that Americans love fairness. How can the United States put emphasis on such a flawed test, and still claim that it adheres to the ideals of fairness and equal opportunity?


HENRY J. GASKINS

Washington

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