The College Board is planning to revise the format of the SAT I test in an effort to assess learning done in the classroom rather than intellectual aptitude.
The potential changes, which would not go into effect until at least 2006, come after the University of California, the nation’s largest public university system, criticized the SAT and made plans to create its own tests.
The changes will not be finalized until at least this summer, but possible alterations include adding a writing section, eliminating or reducing the analogy section of the test, and including more advanced mathematics subjects like algebra II and trigonometry.
The College Board’s trustees will vote on the changes recommended by its member schools, colleges and universities in June, but any modifications would not be made earlier than the fall of 2006.
The College Board has acknowledged that criticism from the UC system was a factor in its decision to rework the SAT I test. UC President Richard Atkinson said in February 2001 that he believed the UC schools should no longer require the SAT I for admission. After a year of research and debate, the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools made a recommendation on March 12 to replace the current SAT tests with a new set of examinations.
“We found [grade point average] was the best indicator of how well a student will do when they get to UC, and closely behind that was the SAT II, which is more of an achievement test, linked closer to the high school work,” said Hanan Eisenman, a spokesman from the UC Office of the President.
The achievement tests proposed by the UC board would be used for the UC schools but would also be transferable to other universities.
“We feel the test will be a better test, it will have greater depth and rigor, it will enhance and be more effective in measuring student’s achieve in high school,” Eisenman said.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw was not available for comment Monday. But Shaw has said he believes the move to alter the admissions testing is unique to California.
“I don’t think there’s been a mad rush to follow,” Shaw said. “The rest of the country has said, ‘We’re not single criterion driven institutions anyway.'”
Shaw said one of the arguments for reworking the SAT would be to address concerns that the test favors students from more affluent schools. But Shaw said that he does not believe UC’s suggestion of making the tests more subject-based will achieve this end.
“They’ve just taken one test and replaced it with another,” Shaw said. “The question I ask myself [is], does that make it more accessible to students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds? I don’t think so. If they’re in relatively poor school districts, with weaker pedagogy and fewer advanced courses, they’re still going to score lower.”
Despite Shaw’s statement that the California system is the exception rather than the rule in its discontent with the current SAT, the College Board has been involved in discussions with UC representatives and seems willing to modify the SAT in an effort to retain the business of the UC system.
Christina Perez is a representative from FairTest, an organization in Cambridge that has been a longtime critic of the SAT test.
“FairTest thinks the proposed changes to the SAT I will not substantially improve the test and are basically coming from a desire for the College Board to keep their product economically viable,” Perez said.
The UC system enrolls about 170,000 students on its nine campuses.
“It’s the largest public university system in the country, so it generates more SAT test takers than any other university system. I think they get something like 90,000 [applications] a year,” Perez said. “The substantive reason behind the [College Board’s] change is to respond to market pressure.”