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University of California conference debates aptitude tests for college-bound students

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) _ The head of the University of California system renewed his criticism of the SAT college entrance exams Friday, calling for better ways of measuring students' academic abilities.

President Richard C. Atkinson has proposed eliminating the SAT I as an admissions requirement to the University of California's eight undergraduate campuses.

He said he wants to find a better way to screen students. In the meantime, he is recommending the UC system continue using the SAT II, a less common test more closely tied to subjects studied in high school.

``Students should be judged on the basis of their actual achievements, not on ill-defined notions of aptitude,'' Atkinson said at the opening of a two-day university-sponsored conference on standardized tests.

``We will never devise the perfect test _ a test that accurately assesses students irrespective of parental education and income, the quality of local schools, and the kind of community a student lives in. But we can do better,'' he said.

Gaston Caperton, president of the nonprofit College Board that owns the SAT, defended the test, while acknowledging its limitations. He said the test has evolved over the 60 years since its inception.

``We feel we have the best test in the world, but we believe we can be better,'' he said.

Critics say high school grades better reflect a student's ability and the SAT is culturally and class biased. Supporters say the SAT acts as a national yardstick and is a hedge against grade inflation.

Atkinson's proposal to drop the SAT requires approval by the UC Board of Regents and could not take effect before fall 2003.

With 130,000 undergraduate students in the University of California system, a decision to eliminate the SAT I as an admission requirement would affect how high school students in California and across the nation prepare for college.

Each year, 2 million high school students take the SAT I.
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