Faculty, Civil Rights, and Education Groups Blast UC Regent's Claims about Berkeley and the SAT

October 24, 2003


William Kidder, Researcher
Equal Justice Society
(415) 543-9444 ext 213
(925) 586-7135 cell
Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
National Center for Fair and Open Testing(FairTest)
(239) 395-6773

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Social science evidence and admission data justify “comprehensive review” at the University of California rather than heavy reliance on the SAT, according to a report released by a broad coalition of professors, civil rights organizations, and education groups.

The UC Coalition Report was prompted by UC Regent Chair John Moores’ confidential report on Berkeley admissions, which was leaked to the media, and sparked enormous controversy over the fairness of the Berkeley admissions process. Moores claimed that students with SATs below 1000 “don’t have any business going to Berkeley.”

William Kidder of the Equal Justice Society, one of the drafters of the Report, stated, “I am saddened that the Chair of the UC Regents would make such provocative statements about Berkeley students being unqualified without a shred of evidence. Our UC Coalition Report, supported by a dozen Berkeley faculty members, proves that students with lower SATs are highly qualified and successful at Berkeley.”

The UC Coalition Report showed that Berkeley students with SATs in the 900s graduated 79% of the time, while those with SATs in the 1500s graduated 82% of the time. At other elite colleges, students with SAT scores under 1000 graduated 83% of the time compared to 87% for students with 1300+ SATs, the Report found.

Bob Schaeffer of FairTest concluded, “Our report carefully documents why the SAT does not equal merit. When combined with high school grades at UC, the SAT only adds about five percent to the prediction of freshman grades.”

Civil rights attorney Eva Paterson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Society, said, “UC is a public institution and should look at how resourceful students are in light of the opportunities before them. The SAT mostly measures an applicant’s economic resources, which is not a fair way to judge a student’s potential.” The Report found that 78% of students admitted to Berkeley with SATs below 1000 were the first in their families to attend college.

John T. Affeldt, managing attorney at Public Advocates, emphasized that the SAT scores of California high school seniors closely track students’ economic backgrounds: “Applicants with family incomes of $20-$30K average 911 points on the SAT, those with incomes of $50-$60K average 1007 points on the test, and students from families making over $100K average 1122 points on the SAT.”

Phil Ting of the Asian Law Caucus warned, “Regent Moores’ scheme to derail comprehensive review could devastate Berkeley’s ability to admit talented students who score lower on the SAT because they are from low-income and immigrant backgrounds.” The Report found that one of the UC Berkeley’s strengths is that it enrolls three times as many low-income students as Stanford or Harvard.

Berkeley sociologist Claude Fischer, who co-wrote Inequality by Design (Princeton U. Press), a critique of intelligence testing, questioned Regent Ward Connerly’s claim that Berkeley was using race as an “unstated factor”: “Connerly’s claim that Berkeley is violating Proposition 209 is based on a statistical fallacy about the SAT.” He added, “Any race-neutral selection process will pass racial disparities in SAT scores from the applicant pool through to the freshman class, so of course underrepresented minorities have lower scores than whites. That alone proves nothing about preferences.”

Jay Rosner, Executive Director of the Princeton Review Foundation made a similar point with an analogy: “If you used free-throw shooting to select a basketball team, you would never pick a great player like Shaq O’Neal. Likewise, misusing the SAT blocks opportunities for students who have other compensatory talents and abilities.”

Professor Troy Duster and Associate Dean David Oppenheimer, two of the co-authors of Whitewashing Race (UC Press), which analyzes Berkeley graduation rates, stated, “We felt is was important to dispel widespread misconceptions about the SAT, and show how other measures of merit should be given more emphasis in college admissions.”

Berkeley professor L. Ling-chi Wang responded, “UC faculty and staff worked hard to develop comprehensive review. I hope other Regents will call Moores on the carpet for leaking his preliminary report, which was based upon shoddy research.”

Berkeley professor Alex Saragoza thinks Regent Moores may have put out his preliminary report to influence and control the selection process for Berkeley’s incoming Chancellor before Moores’ tenure as Chair is over. Saragoza asked, “Why else would Moores put out such a politicized, error-riddled draft report?”

Sociologist Andrew Barlow, who also criticizes standardized tests in his new book, Between Fear and Hope: Globalization and Race in the U.S. (Rowman & Littlefield), said its important to put this controversy in perspective: “Over-emphasis of SAT scores distracts us from the real crisis, which is UC’s declining investment in students during a period of dramatic budget cuts and tuition hikes.”

“Facts and Fantasies about UC Berkeley Admissions: A Critical Evaluation of Regent John Moores’ Report,” is posted on the web at www.equaljusticesociety.org and www.fairtest.org

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