A group of local activists, including high school and university students and college professors, labeled the SAT racially-biased and urged the University of California system to drop the test as an entry requirement in a rally Tuesday afternoon at UC Berkeley.
“The evidence is quite clear that the SAT, although it claims to measure intrinsic ability, in fact discriminates,” said Barrie Thoran, UC Berkeley professor of women’s studies and sociology.
Activists cited the gap in SAT test scores between whites and minorities of similar economic and academic backgrounds as evidence of the racial bias.
“That’s a charge that’s been debunked,” replied Chiara Coletti, vice president of public affairs for The College Board, which administers the test.
Coletti, reached by phone, acknowledged that middle- and upper-class minority students have not fared as well on the SAT as their white counterparts, but said the test is not to blame.
“There’s no racial bias in the SAT,” she said, arguing that the problem of poor minority achievement is a murky, cultural one about which academics can only theorize.
Whatever the reasons for the SAT “achievement gap,” activists urged the University of California system to look elsewhere in determining which students to accept.
“The best predictor of college grades are high school grades,” said David White of Berkeley-based Testing for the Public.
A key UC academic committee, the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, or BOARS, concluded in a report issued earlier this year that grades are in fact the best predictors of success.
But, the study found that standardized tests do add significant “predictive value” in determining whether a student will fare well in the UC system.
The report also found that tests focused on particular subjects are more useful than general aptitude tests, like the SAT-I, in predicting achievement.
BOARS has recommended that the UC system abandon the SAT and develop a new testing regimen that reflects what is taught in California’s high school classrooms.
The UC Board of Regents is discussing the BOARS recommendations this week in meetings at UC San Francisco, but is not expected to vote until the summer.
Activists at the Tuesday protest said they planned to show up at the Regents meeting Wednesday.