But getting rid of standardized tests is not the way to solve the problem of underperforming black and Latino students. Standardized tests, whether they be the SAT or state tests taken to assess elementary and secondary school performance required by the No Child Left Behind Act, merely document the skills gap that exists between whites and Asians on the one hand and blacks and Latinos on the other. The answer isn't fixing the tests to produce more even results between racial groups but improving the skills of those students who lag behind.
In 1996, voters in California did away with racial preferences in college admissions to state schools by enacting Proposition 209. Since then, many administrators in the UC system have tried to figure out a backdoor way to boost admissions of blacks and Latinos to the university's flagship schools, UC Berkley and UCLA. What they've failed to notice is that black and Latino enrollment system-wide is up over the levels when racial preferences were common. The students now enrolled under more race-neutral standards are doing just fine, graduating in higher percentages than they were when racial preferences admitted many students to campuses where they couldn't compete with their peers because their grades and test scores were substantially lower.
Eliminating standardized tests or dumbing down their contents doesn't help anyone. It simply sweeps evidence of academic disparities under the rug, where they can't be dealt with. If California really wants to improve education for all its students, it will work to keep high standards in place and encourage students to test what they have learned. California students prefer the SAT to other standardized tests, judging by the numbers who take this test now. BOARS' job should be to encourage students to make their own choices about which test they prefer, not to pick one test over another -- but most of all not to discourage the use of standardized tests altogether in the hopes of promoting greater diversity.
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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