U.C. Regents Urged to Question Admissions Test Change Impacts FairTest Says Current Proposals Fail to Address Concerns

for further information:
Christina Perez (857) 350-8207
Bob Schaeffer (941) 395-6773

** for release Monday, May 13, 2002**As the University of California Board of Regents prepares for a Wednesday, May 15 briefing by proponents of new or revised undergraduate admissions exams, the country's leading assessment reform organization is circulating a set of unanswered questions about proposed test revisions.

A letter to Regents members from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) states, "Though we share the widespread concerns that current tests distort high school curriculum, undermine equity, and predict poorly, the evidence that proposed changes effectively address such serious issues is generally non-existent." The Regents are scheduled to be briefed by officials from: the College Board, sponsors of the SAT; ACT Inc., manufacturers of the ACT college entrance exam; and the Board on Academic Relations with Schools (BOARS), the faculty body which recently endorsed a set of principles for admissions exams.

Among the questions posed by FairTest to members of the Board of Regents, who set U.C. admissions policy:

  • What is the evidence that a new or revised exam will predict college grades more accurately than current tests do? How will changing the format or contents of an entrance exam improve its "predictive validity?"
  • Will changing the tests level the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds? Is there any data indicating that a new or revised exam will not systematically underestimate the academic potential of young women, students whose first language is not English and applicants over age 25 -- just like the SAT and ACT?
  • Is there a realistic plan for scoring an essay portion of a college admissions exam in a manner that is fair, accurate and timely? Does the testing industry plan to rely on experimental, computer-based scoring systems to cope with the sheer volume?
  • How will a new or revised test be any less "coachable" than current exams? What is to prevent applicants from upper income families, who can afford the $750+ the more effective coaching courses charge, from gaining an extra edge in the admissions process?
  • Why should anyone expect that a different test will reduce the "distortion" of school curriculum? There is an old adage in the measurement profession: "What is tested is what is taught!"
  • How much more will test requirement revisions cost students in both time and money? Will students applying to both the University of California and schools in other states have to spend extra time and money taking two different sets of admissions exams?
  • Why should the University of California require an entrance exam? Nearly 400 bachelor degree-granting institutions nationwide do not consider any standardized test scores before making admissions offers to substantial portions of their entering classes (see www.fairtest.org for a detailed list).

The FairTest letter concludes, "We hope that you will carefully review the questions we raise and seek detailed responses from the testing proponents who come before you asking for Regents approval of their proposals."

** A copy of the FairTest letter to the U.C. Regents and accompanying "Questions for Test Proponents About 'New' University Admissions Exams" is also available.