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Published in Print: December 1, 1999, as NAACP Criticizes Colleges' Use of SAT, ACT

NAACP Criticizes Colleges' Use of SAT, ACT

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The NAACP is urging colleges to de-emphasize the use of standardized tests in the admissions process. The group is also asking states to pay for test-preparation programs for minority students.

SAT and ACT exams, the most commonly used college-admissions tests, are biased against minority students and provide a poor indicator of success in college, said Jeffrey I. Johnson, the national youth-councils coordinator for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"We should be looking at any inconsistencies that can serve as barriers to students' performing successfully on the test, as well as ensuring that material on tests correlates with high school and college curricula" Mr. Johnson said in an interview.

The Baltimore-based civil rights group formally adopted its positions on standardized tests in a resolution approved Nov. 19.

Association officials are encouraging state lawmakers to follow the lead of California in allocating state money to pay for test preparation for minority students. That state will spend $4.5 million this year on its College Preparation Partnership Program, which enables 50,000 students in grades 11 and 12 to take test-preparation classes during and after school.

"These 'prep and pay' programs are just a small way that we can begin to bridge the gap between success and mediocrity of the African-American and other minority students," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said in a statement.

Screening for Bias

The makers of standardized admissions tests argue that their products don't create the inequities in American education— they reflect them.

"We always say that there are disparities among scores of different groups of students, but we believe that the test is not the cause of that disparity," said Jeffrey Penn, a spokesman for the New York City-based College Board. The nonprofit organization sponsors the SAT, an entrance test taken by about 2 million students each year.

The College Board aspires to create a test fair for people of all backgrounds, Mr. Penn said, adding that every exam question is screened for possible bias.

White students scored an average of 527, out of a possible 800, on the verbal section of the SAT this year, according to the College Board; black students scored 434, while Hispanics scored 463. White students scored an average of 528 on the mathematics section, compared with 422 for African-Americans and 464 for Hispanics.

Vol. 19, Issue 14, Page 10

Web Resources
  • In "Reaching the Top," the National Task Force on Minority High Achievement, a group of 31 educators, scholars, philanthropists, and business leaders created two years ago by the College Board, called for a concerted national campaign to close the stubborn achievement gap that separates top-performing black and Hispanic students from their white and Asian-American peers. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.)
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