Apt Aptitudes

Article excerpt

The SAT exam, which was designed to predict how well someone would do in college, has been criticized for years. Yet it hasn't yet flunked out as an admissions tool. It's a handy way to measure a person's skills and knowledge.

But now one of the country's premier higher educators, Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California system, has publicly rejected the assumptions behind the SAT and other widely used aptitude tests. A psychologist with long experience in devising and assessing tests, Dr. Atkinson is leery of the SAT's claim to gauge aptitude for college work. He wants to drop it as a requirement for applicants to the nine UC campuses.

He argues that a more reasonable college-entrance exam would test the subject matter a college-bound student would have been expected to master in high school. That view, interestingly, is in line with the ideas of reformers who want to use state tests to determine if high school students have mastered tougher curricula and deserve a diploma.

Atkinson also criticizes the test-preparation industry that has grown up around the SAT. …