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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: How dumping the SAT can be unfair to disadvantaged students too

A student takes a practice SAT test.
A student answers SAT practice questions from a test prep book.
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

To the editor: Money has always given an advantage to some students, but test prep classes for the SAT and ACT are not the same as bribes. They normally require a lot of work and time from students, and it is not unreasonable for such effort to be rewarded with higher scores. (“Should UC stop considering SAT and ACT scores in admissions?” editorial, Nov. 1)

To help level the playing field, prep books and classes should be, and sometimes are, available to students with lower incomes.

It is easy to over-emphasize the test prep advantage. In my 40 years of teaching honors students, I found that SAT scores often revealed distinctions between high-achieving students that were not apparent in grades, often confirming less measurable differences among excellent students.

Ultimately colleges need as much information as possible to make a decision about a student.

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Steve Sewell, Brea

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To the editor: The SAT’s predictive value for success in college was shown to be negligible by the announcement in 2005 of the results of the 20-year landmark study conducted by Bates College in Maine.

By making submission of SAT scores optional, Bates found virtually no difference in the four-year performance and on-time graduation rates of 7,000 people who did or did not submit scores.

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Since then, more than 800 colleges and universities have followed the same policy, with the same outcomes. They’ve all reported that grades and courses taken are a far better indicator of success.

Yet tradition dies hard in higher education, which is why high-stakes standardized tests will no doubt prevail.

Walt Gardner, Los Angeles

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To the editor: If it weren’t for the SAT, I might not have gotten admitted to UC Berkeley.

My family had serious problems that often distracted me from studying, and my high school grand point average did not reflect my true potential.

After I scored in the top 1% on the SAT without any special training, I was able to interview at UC Berkeley and explain the problem. The university admitted me, and I graduated with highest honors.

Eliminating the SAT from admissions will severely disadvantage students who face a similar dilemma.

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Lee Bridges, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Not mentioned in the discussion of the unfairness of the SAT or ACT to students of color or poverty is the UC policy called Eligibility in Local Context.

Students can gain eligibility to the UC system if they have a GPA in the top 9% of their high school class on the required courses for UC and California State University admission. They must take the SAT or ACT, but their scores cannot disqualify them.

I believe this has had an important role in the documented increase in the diversity of UC campuses over the past two decades.

Thomas Ostwald, Santa Barbara

The writer is a retired director of school-university partnerships at UC Santa Barbara.


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