NCAA Reviews Test Score Requirements

University Testing

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Executive Director Cedric Dempsey has told the Washington Post that he plans to recommend eliminating his organization's controversial test score cutoff. Research on first-year academic requirements conducted by the NCAA over the past year shows that student-athletes who fell short of SAT/ACT cutoffs did as well in their college classes as those who scored above the cutoffs. Consistent with past NCAA findings, the new data also show that Proposition 16's test score requirements have had a particularly harsh impact on minority and low-income student-athletes.

Critics of Proposition 16, led by FairTest, the Black Coaches Association and presidents of the Historically Black Colleges, have always opposed the use of test score cutoffs because of their inaccuracy and their disparate impact on certain groups of student-athletes (see Examiner, Fall/Winter 1995-96). Even the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the College Board, which produce and sponsor the SAT, have stated repeatedly that Proposition 16, like its predecessor, Proposition 48, represents a misuse of the SAT. College Board guidelines for the use of the SAT warn against such practices as "using minimum test scores without proper validation" and "making decisions about otherwise qualified students based only on small differences in test scores."

This summer, members of an NCAA Initial-Eligibility Subcommittee will present the research findings to the NCAA's governance structure and membership. The Division I Management Council will likely review proposed revisions to the test score requirements at its January 1999 meeting.

In 1994, the NCAA's Special Committee to Review Initial Eligibility Requirements recommended sharply lowering the test score cutoff but the full membership rejected that proposal and imposed even stricter requirements. Throughout the history of these controversial initial eligibility rules, a core group of college presidents, backed by the Knight Foundation, has resisted efforts to modify the test score requirements, even in the face of contrary research findings, testmaker warnings and NCAA committee recommendations. This time, though, the NCAA's decision will be made in the wake of several recent adverse court rulings and a settlement with the Justice Department on issues related to requirements for students with learning disabilities (see related story in this issue).

The NCAA also faces a class-action, race discrimination lawsuit, filed in January 1997 by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice on behalf of two African American student-athletes who finished in the top 10 percent of their high school class but were denied full Division I athletic eligibility solely because of their SAT scores (see Examiner, Winter 1997).

For more information, go to FairTest's NCAA page.