When it comes to education trends, as California goes, so goes the nation. Which is all the more reason to be concerned about the latest effort in California to dumb down standards. The University of California's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) has launched another salvo in its long-running war against the SAT, the test used by many colleges and universities to assess academic achievement among high school seniors. This is only the latest in a series of moves by BOARS against the SAT, but this one may be a stalking horse to eliminate standardized tests in general, especially if they conflict with the goal of promoting racial and ethnic diversity.
BOARS has already eliminated a requirement that University of California applicants take at least two subject-matter tests in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test. Now BOARS is taking aim at the SAT directly. What makes the action more suspicious is that BOARS' own report notes that the SAT-R was developed specifically in response to testing principles it promulgated and that the new test "adds significant gains in predictive power of first year grades at UC." Nonetheless, BOARS is now recommending that students forgo the SAT in favor of the less-popular ACT.
Both tests have been accepted for more than 30 years and do a good job of predicting first-year grades. So why is BOARS now signaling preference for one test over another? After reading the report, it's hard to come away without feeling that the real target is standardized testing in general.
As numerous studies and the raw data on test scores have shown, performance on standardized tests varies not just between individuals but also between different racial and ethnic groups. In general, black and Latino students perform less well as a group than do white and Asian students. Since BOARS is committed to boosting the number of black and Latino students admitted to the UC system, standardized tests that do not produce politically correct results are a problem. It's not too far-fetched to wonder whether BOARS' effort to discourage students from taking the SAT may be the first step in getting rid of standardized tests altogether.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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