Test Restructuring a Good Step, But Needs To Be National

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Recently, a key UC faculty committee proposed that UC move to a single day test of math and English within the next few years. Currently UC requires applicants to take both the SAT I and the SAT II, and each SAT has math and English sections. The UC committee reported that both the College Board, the company that owns the SAT, and the ACT, the other major national test preparation company, would be working on a new test that would be designed specifically for California. The proposal stated that these tests would likely be ready within two years.

If the new proposal is passed by the UC Academic Senate and the regents, this would be a major step forward for California students. A new comprehensive test of math and English would cut down on the time many California students would have to spend taking college admissions exams. Because UC applicants would no longer have to take two separate SAT tests in math and English, two days of testing would be cut down to one. This would also obviously reduce the cost of taking tests for many California students.

With all the good news, however, there are some major improvements to the UC proposal that must be made. First, the public needs to be reassured that no other changes will be made until the new tests are developed. Initially UC President Richard Atkinson had been floating the idea of temporarily adding extra SAT II tests as a new UC requirement until a new, "better" test was available. This plan would have been be disastrous for California students, many of whom would have gotten stuck taking the "Infinite SAT." UC needs to reaffirm that there will be just one quick strike of a change when the new College Board and ACT tests are ready. In the meantime, UC should leave alone the current requirement of the SAT I and three SAT II tests.

My greatest concern with the new UC proposal, however, is the idea that the new test would be only a "California" test. When I made my proposal to the College Board, I strongly stated that a new single day test of math and English should be a nationwide test. Again, the UC proposal states that any new test would be designed specifically for California and would be separate from the current SAT I or ACT. In order to make a comparison, apparently there would be some sort of conversion chart to compare the new test to the SAT I and the ACT.

Why is the new test only designated for California, and not the whole nation? I believe there are two reasons. First of all, as much as I admire the College Board, the College Board has been very slow to give up the SAT I. Although, privately, some College Board members have expressed a willingness to create a new nationwide test, publicly, College Board spokespersons keep reiterating that the rest of the country is satisfied with the SAT I and seem to be reluctant to make a change. Obviously there would be resistance from universities to any change, but I strongly feel that if the College Board announced to the country that it was creating a new, better SAT, the majority of universities would support this action.

Right now, UC is insisting the new test conform exactly to California standards. Clearly standards differ from state to state and in order for this new test to become a nationwide test, UC may need to bend a little. Why would the UC system want to willingly segregate itself from all of the other universities in the country?

This is a good idea. Now we just need to turn it into a great one.


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