University of California System President Richard Atkinson called on Friday for an elimination of the SAT I requirement in undergraduate admissions in the California schools, a move that would be unprecedented in a state school system.
Atkinson’s announcement already has administrators across the nation talking and could lead schools to change their admissions procedures drastically. While some small colleges in the Northeast do not require standardized tests, most larger schools require the SAT I or ACT and some SAT IIs. Yale administrators said there are no current plans to discard the SAT requirement.
“It’s pretty monumental for the University of California system because they are a major player in the educational system,” said Margit Dahl, Yale’s director of undergraduate admissions. “I can’t say we have any plans to do it.”
Atkinson called for the elimination of the SAT I requirement as early as 2003 and a later elimination of the SAT II requirement once the University of California system develops a new test unique to its needs.
Atkinson wrote in a prepared speech to the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., Sunday that he reached his conclusions after visiting a California private school and seeing 12-year-olds studying for the SATs.
“What I saw was disturbing and prompted me to spend time taking sample SAT tests and reviewing the literature,” Atkinson said in the prepared speech. “I concluded what many others have concluded: that America’s overemphasis on the SAT is compromising our educational system.”
The University of California’s Academic Senate, a statewide faculty governing body for academic policy, and the University of California’s Board of Regents must vote on Atkinson’s recommendation for it to take effect.
Atkinson is confident that his idea will pass, especially after seeing a statement of support from the head of the academic senate in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, said Michael Reese, the assistant vice president of the University of California system.
“He’s already accomplished his number one objective to have a national conversation,” Reese said. “At the very least schools are going to have to take a second look at this and think.”
Reese said he didn’t know if other schools would follow Atkinson’s lead, but added that in making admissions decisions, schools like Yale and Harvard consider many other factors in addition to standardizing test results.
If implanted, a no-SAT policy would place greater importance on a student’s grades and rigor of courseload, Reese said.
The proposal has already met controversy. Officials at the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT exam, issued a response to Atkinson’s proposal on Friday.
“Dropping the SAT makes no more sense than dropping classroom grades,” College Board President Gaston Caperton said in a statement. “Neither the SAT nor classroom grades are perfect measures of a student’s readiness for college. But when professional admissions officers use the SAT and classroom grades, in combination with extracurricular activities, personal essays and recommendations, they have a powerful set of tools.”
Bates, Bowdoin and Mount Holyoke colleges already do not require SATs. But these three schools are significantly smaller than the University of California system, which receives more than 90,000 applications each year. Bates receives about 4,400 applications each year for a class of 475.
Bates adopted an optional SAT I policy in 1984 and made all standardized tests optional in 1992, but a majority of Bates applicants still send standardized test scores.
“We did extensive research to see how much relationship there is between the SAT and Bates grades,” Bates Dean of Admissions Wylie Mitchell said. “The application that we require is very thorough and — each of our applications is read four, five or six times.”
Reese said the California school system would still be able to evaluate its mass of applications without the SATs by using a new test specific to California and possibly accepting scores from other state tests, such as the New York State Regents. He added that the policy has not been fully fleshed out.