Senate OKs testing change, new council

Members of the Academic Senate's Representative Assembly on June 5 overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal by a UC systemwide committee to create a new set of admissions tests for undergraduates applying to the university.

After a year of study, the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools recently recommended that the university discontinue using the SAT I as an admission exam and develop a new series of tests that measure high school achievement, rather than aptitude. The board, whose membership includes UC linguistics professor Patrick Farrell, made their proposals, in part, after a UC-commissioned study found that the combination of a student's high school grade- point average and subject-based SAT II scores were the greatest predictor of first-year college success.

Based on its findings, the UC admission board has recommended the university develop a core achievement exam covering reading, writing and mathematics for all students seeking admission. Prospective students would also take hourlong tests in two high school subjects - likely of their own choosing - that are part of the university's admission requirements.

One faculty member questioned whether the data on students' college success was convincing enough to merit the testing change. According to the board's study of the 1996 through 1999 admitted classes, the relative quality of students' GPA and SAT II scores in high school explained about a 22 percent variation in their freshman GPA.

"It seems to me that with a predictive ability of 22. 2 percent, that it's a disaster," said agriculture and resource economics professor Quirino Paris.

But economics professor Kevin Hoover said that since the data came from students already admitted to UC, the differences between the students' success could not be expected to be large. For instance, students' SAT I scores alone offered a predictive difference in GPAs of 13 percent.

"These people are already so good," he said.

After the UC admissions group comes up with specific test criteria, the standards will be brought back to the UC faculties for approval. The new tests would not be used any earlier than for the 2006 entering class.

As UC studies its admissions requirements, test creators for the SAT and the ACT are beginning to adapt those exams to the university's proposals, said Senate chair Jeff Gibeling. "The transportability issue (of the UC tests) would go away," he said. "Everyone would be taking the same test nationwide."


Among other business, the Representative Assembly at the June 5 meeting also voted to create an Undergraduate Council, modeled after a similar body at UCLA and the Davis Graduate Council, to oversee undergraduate education matters. One of its primary duties will be to review UC Davis' general education program.

"It's my belief that the campus would benefit from a committee, that we don't have now, that focuses its attention on undergraduate education issues," Gibeling said.

The council will be created from the Committee on Education Policy with the committees on Preparatory Education and Teaching becoming committees of the undergraduate body. The group will include 12 Senate members, three undergraduate students, a graduate student and two members of the UC Davis Academic Federation.

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