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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Women's Rights Project and FairTest Charge ETS, College Board with Gender Bias in Sponsoring Exam for National Merit Scholarship Selection Embargoed for Release until Wednesday, February 16, 1994 NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union's national Women's Rights Project today filed a complaint on behalf of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) charging the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the College Entrance Examination Board (College Board) with violating federal equal education law by administering and cosponsoring the exam used by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to determine eligibility for more than $25 million in tuition aid each year. The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office For Civil Rights, states that reliance on the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) denies girls an equal opportunity to compete for and receive the awards. Each year more than three-fifths of National Merit Scholarships go to boys because they score higher on the PSAT/NMSQT, even though girls on average earn better grades in both high school and college when matched for the same academic courses. "By using the PSAT/NMSQT as the sole basis for the initial screening, ETS and the College Board deprive female students of an equal opportunity to compete," said Marcia Thurmond, staff counsel with the ACLU's national Women's Rights Project. "Young women are denied financial benefits, honors, status and prestige on the basis of a test that ETS and the College Board know is flawed," she said. "Federal intervention is needed to ensure that girls get a fair shot at these valuable scholarships," explained FairTest Executive Director Cinthia Schuman. "Even the test-makers' own research admits that the SAT underpredicts the performance of females and overpredicts the performance of males. For years ETS, the College Board, and National Merit have stonewalled well-documented protests from women's groups, civil rights activists and academic experts." The complaint asks the Department of Education to declare ETS and the College Board in violation of Title IX regulations. Title IX of U.S. education law prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex or significantly assisting in such discrimination. The agency's Office For Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing the equal opportunity requirements. Both ETS and the College Board receive Education Department funds through a variety of contracts and grants. The complaint does not target the National Merit Scholarship Corporation because that organization does not directly receive federal funds. Scores derived from the PSAT/NMSQT are the sole qualifying factor for the selection of National Merit Semifinalists, eliminating more than 98 percent of all students from the competition. Annual research conducted by FairTest shows that although 55 percent of competitors are females, over 60 percent of Semifinalists each year are male, a nearly identical percentage as National Merit Scholars. ETS and College Board documents indicate that the so-called "new PSAT" administered for the first time in October, 1993 will not eliminate the gender bias because the test has not fundamentally changed. National Merit Scholarships to be awarded in the spring of 1994 are based on the old version of the exam. In a 1989 lawsuit brought on behalf of 12 female high school seniors by the ACLU national Women's Rights Project with the assistance of FairTest, a federal district court judge declared New York State's system of awarding college scholarships based solely on SAT scores to be unconstitutional and in violation of Title IX. A copy of the complaint is available on request. --30-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher://aclu.org:6601 | American Civil Liberties Union National Office ftp://aclu.org | mailto:infoaclu@aclu.org | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"

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