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Testing Column

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Beginning with the next academic year, Middlebury College in Vermont and Union College in New York State will no longer require applicants for admission to submit scores from the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Union College will still require students to submit scores from either the American College Testing examination--the other major college-admissions test--or the College Board's achievement tests.

Middlebury will also require applicants to submit their scores on five achievement tests or on the A.C.T., if they do not provide S.A.T. results.

John S. Morris, president of Union College, said a committee comprising faculty members and administrators recommended making the S.A.T. optional on several grounds.

"The S.A.T. purports to measure a student's potential capacity to do college academic work,'' he said, "but there is a consistent body of evidence showing that the S.A.T. is no better than achievement tests.''

In addition, he said, "we are convinced that the S.A.T. cannot escape cultural bias.''

Faculty members were also "dismayed at the emotional energy being committed to the S.A.T.'' by high-school students and their parents, Mr. Morris said, including the widespread reliance on S.A.T.-coaching courses.

In recent years, both Bates and Bowdoin colleges in Maine have stopped requiring that applicants take the college-admissions test.


Meanwhile, a nonbinding student referendum at Brown University, which would have urged the institution to make the Scholastic Aptitude Test optional for college applicants, failed to pass by a narrow margin.

The nonbinding referendum--voted on by approximately 30 percent of Brown's undergraduates--lost by a vote of 777 to 763 on April 15 and 16.

College officials previously had said it was unlikely the university would drop the testing requirement.

But the referendum has sparked interest on other campuses. FairTest, a national advocacy group for test-takers' rights, reported that students from at least three colleges, including Harvard University, have expressed interest in sponsoring a similar referendum at their schools.

Students Against Testing--a coalition of about 70 Brown students that organized the referendum--has sent letters to students at 100 other colleges urging them to fight mandatory use of the S.A.T. in college admissions.

Mark Safire, a senior at Brown and official spokesman for the coalition, said: "This has become a national movement. We've been sending letters to hundreds of colleges and student newspapers around the country, and we've heard from people all over the place. We think next fall is going to be a big time for this issue. It's just finally starting to roll.''

"As for Brown,'' he added, "we have support here, but our activities are not aimed at Brown University. They're aimed at the makers of the test. We want people to really re-think how tests are being used as a part of the admissions process.''

The test is "particularly pernicious in its effects on secondary-school education,'' he said, "because teachers are encouraged to teach toward the test.''--L.O.

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