Thursday, July 17, 2003

Lavonne Luquis (510) 987-9194

Hanan Eisenman (510) 587-6194


With a policy change approved by the Board of Regents today (July 17), the admissions tests taken by freshmen entering the University of California in 2006 will be more closely aligned to the high school curriculum than ever before.

Instead of taking the ACT or SAT I plus three SAT IIs as they do now, students who enter the university in 2006 will take a new SAT I that includes a writing exam or the ACT along with a new writing component, plus two SAT IIs in areas such as history/social science, English, mathematics, laboratory science, or a language other than English.

The issue of admissions test reform has been in the national spotlight since early 2001, when UC President Richard C. Atkinson called upon the academic community to re-evaluate the way standardized tests were used in the admissions process, stating they should include a writing sample and be brought into closer alignment with the college preparatory curriculum in high school.

Atkinson sparked a national debate that prompted the testing agencies to change their tests; today's vote by the regents to amend UC's testing policy reflects that new reality.

"Standardized tests provide a common measure of student performance in an educational system marked by vast disparities between schools,"Atkinson said. "And we need standardized tests that bear a demonstrable relationship to what students actually study in the high school college-preparatory curriculum."

As is customary, the change in policy was developed and approved by the UC faculty.

"We expect the new tests will have a very positive impact on students across the state," said Gayle N. Binion, chair of the universitywide Academic Senate. "They send a clear signal that students must master their subject matter in high school if they want to do well on the admissions tests."

In February 2001, Atkinson delivered a keynote speech to the American Council on Education in which he called on colleges and universities to re-examine the role of standardized tests in college admissions.

In response, the UC Academic Senate's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) examined how the university used standardized tests in its admissions processes and in January 2002 suggested several changes in policy with regard to admissions tests. Specifically, BOARS recommended that the university adopt a "core test" covering the fundamental disciplines of language arts (including writing) and mathematics. BOARS also said the test should be related to the college preparatory curriculum students are expected to take in high school and should offer information that could help identify academic strengths and weaknesses.

Last summer, both ACT and the College Board announced plans to revise their existing national tests in ways that are in accord with the BOARS recommendations.

Beginning in 2005, the College Board will add a mandatory writing exam to its existing core test and make substantial changes to the SAT I that move toward addressing BOARS' concerns about the scope of its mathematics content coverage, as well as its basis in the college preparatory curriculum and its ability to provide diagnostic feedback to students and schools. Additionally, the ACT will offer an optional writing test along with its existing national test of mathematics and language arts; this test will be available to all ACT test-takers across the country.

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