Putting the SAT to the Test
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BUT FIRST, the UC Academic Council must review Atkinson's proposal and make a recommendation to the UC Board of Regents. The questions the faculty considers could be even more far-reaching than simply what subject matter and competencies students should be mastering, says Michael Cowan, chair of the Academic Council. They may include, he says, whether the university is screening out potential leaders through its admissions mechanism. Is the UC admitting students who look good on paper, but who end up doing little of merit beyond graduation? Could introduction of a UC test to replace the SAT I force students to take both tests if they also want to apply outside of the UC?
"It's clear that Atkinson touched a nerve," says Cowan, a professor of American studies and literature at UC Santa Cruz. "It certainly stimulated a lot of debate on all sides of the issue. The debate itself is a good thing; it makes us go back and question the assumptions we have that led us to determine that certain apparatus should be used to ascertain a student's achievement and potential."
A healthy debate is just what Atkinson is looking for.
"I truly hope this is not a UC venture alone," Atkinson says. "I hope that the country as a whole will step away from the SAT I and from a tradition in the United States that goes back to a period in the early 1920s when people really believed that tests like this measured something innate. That notion of innate intelligence is a very destructive one."
He adds: "I don't have all the wisdom here. But what is clear in my mind is that a dialogue on this matter is long overdue."