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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

September-22-97

UC May Drop Biased SATs for Admission

Facing a severe decline in Latino and African-American graduate enrollment as a result of prohibitions against affirmative action in the wake of Proposition 209, the University of California is considering dropping the SAT requirement for undergraduate admission, citing racial bias in the test.

The university task force investigating the issue stated that continued use of SATs would cause the number of Hispanic students to drop 70%. The number of non-white students plummeted this fall at graduate schools where affirmative action was recently banned, such as Texas and California. Task force member Raymund Paredes said that their study of UC Latino students found "there was very little correlation between academic success and SAT scores." Ralph Purdy, an associate dean at UC-Irvine medical school, said a diverse student body is necessary, especially in medical schools, because non-white students are more likely to work in poor, non-white communities after graduation. California state Senator Teresa Hughes suggests that instead of automatically accepting the top 12.5% students with the highest grades in the state, as is currently done, UC schools should accept the top 12.5% of students from each high school's graduating class, so that students from poorer schools have a better chance.

The SAT is also biased against women students. Two years ago, a study found that Berkeley's SAT requirements reduced the number of female freshman by over 5%. Women score lower on standardized tests than men, even though they get better grades in college than men in the same majors. Sections of the verbal SAT that women traditionally did better on, such as antonyms, have been removed, and other sections that men do better on have been expanded, in order to make the verbal section more "sex-neutral." One study found that an SAT had 42 references to men and only 3 to women. Other standardized tests, such as the ACT and AP tests, have a very small gender gap, and not the 50-point gulf that appears in SATs.

In 1989, the New York Board of Regents was sued for sex discrimination because it relied on PSAT scores for scholarships, which resulted in only 43% of the awards going to women. When they were ordered by a court to award scholarships solely on grades, female recipients increased to 51%. In 1993, the ACLU and FairTest filed a civil rights complaint with the Educational Testing Service because National Merit Scholarships rely on PSATs. In 1994, only 38% of all National Merit awards went to females.

Media Resources: Washington Post, "SAT and Gender Bias," Cathy Dean, and Daily Californian, September 22, 1997


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