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SATs are 'not the only way,' UA officials say

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 21, 1999
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

While UA officials acknowledged that standardized testing is not adequate for screening students, they agreed that the scores may be a necessary requirement.

John Taylor, dean of the College of Education, said standardized tests show how well a student will compete, but universities must use many different criteria for admitting students.

"It is one of many ways, it is not the only way, and shouldn't be the only way," Taylor said. "If you only use a test score, it's an injustice to the student and you may be losing a jewel in the rough."

Randell Richardson, University of Arizona vice president for undergraduate education, said admittance to most universities is based on an academic index.

The index includes the degree of high school course difficulty, the student's grade point average and test scores, Richardson said.

"Standardized tests by themselves are a too risky way to evaluate students," he said.

At the UA, no one is denied admission based solely on SATs, but a student's score can hurt eligibility for scholarships and admission into the honors college, Richardson said.

He added that test scores do provide officials with useful information but it is important to look the student's entire history.

John McNeill, math and science interim coordinator at the UA learning center, said although he is uncertain if the standardized tests measure student's ability, but he can not see colleges using an alternative method.

"These tests are pretty entrenched," McNeill said. "We have so many people who totally swear by them."

Kendal Washington White, associate director of UA minority student services, said colleges need a way to screen students, but she does not believe standardized testing is the answer.

"I tend to think they don't measure people's ability," White said. "Personal perseverance and determination is more of a factor whether they're going to succeed."

Though many feel standardized tests may not be a good method to measure a student's ability, White said she believes the tests are becoming more suitable for minorities.

"The tests aren't biased, but people's preparation is culturally biased," White said.

A lot of minority students aren't aware of test preparation courses or they don't have the money to attend them, she said.

White added that many students do not have a family member who attended or graduated from college.

"Still in 1999, 90 percent of (minority) students are first generation college students," White said.

While standardized tests may be the nation's most relied upon source for screening students, some colleges have turned to alternative methods.

Universities in California and Texas have started automatically admitting a percentage of each high-school class to their institutions.

But White said this is not a sound method to replace standardized testing.

"A student may have a higher GPA because their school districts standards weren't as high as another's school districts," she said.