Sunday, April 08, 2001
Thomas More College
By E. Joseph Lee
President-Elect, Thomas More College
The debate relative to the appropriate role of SATs has probably been going on since their inception 75 years ago. It was recently refueled by University of California President Richard C. Atkinson's February announcement indicating that the university would eliminate the use of SATs in the admissions process.
As a former admissions practitioner for many years, I have witnessed all too often the fear and ignorance surrounding their usage. Most admissions officers will readily admit that how a high school student performs in a solid college prep program is usually a much better indicator for success in college than high SAT scores.
However, parents and prospective students seem much more concerned with a few hours of testing than they are with four years of study. Parents are also all too willing to spend hundreds of dollars in SAT prep courses in hopes that their son or daughter's scores jump a few points.
The reality is that neither high school performance nor test scores are a true barometer for a successful college career, as neither is able to measure motivation.
Rather than abandoning the tests, however, educators should use the present debate to cast SATs in their proper perspectiveone of many tools in the admissions process. At the same time, The College Board should do their part to ensure that as much as possible the tests are unbiased.
Let me offer one other reason for continuing the SAT. I assume that admissions staffs at most colleges, working with applicants from familiar high schools, can determine to a high degree those candidates that would predict success at their colleges without considering SAT scores. However, as colleges look to cultivate secondary, and especially tertiary markets, the high schools will become less familiar.
Hence, the SATs, rightly or wrongly, will play a much greater role in the admissions process. They can furnish an institution with some objective criteria for admissions officers to use in evaluating individuals from across the country.
As College Board President Gaston Caperton recently stated, The SAT is a common yardstick in an era of grade inflation, and where students complete different courses with different teachers using different grading systems.
Northern Kentucky University
Thomas More College
University of Cincinnati