March 20, 2001

High stakes standardized tests like the SAT fail to capture the qualities most essential for success in the corporate world, such as creativity, drive, and leadership, according to a new survey of corporate executives of the nation's Fortune 1000 companies released by the National Urban League. The survey is the first product of the League's Institute for Opportunity and Equality, the League's DC-based research and public policy unit. Nationwide Insurance provided the major funding for the Institute.

In addition to the study results, the League released a strongly-worded letter addressed to college and university presidents endorsed by CEOs and other high-ranking executives at some of the top corporations in the country, including Nationwide, Bank of America, UPS, Verizon and Gillette, urging them to stop the over-reliance on college entrance exams.

Conducted by DYG, Inc. exclusively among corporate presidents, CEOs, CFOs, and COOs, as well as senior VPs and VPs, the survey's key findings reveal the following:

-- 91 percent rated "character" (defined as integrity, the ability to overcome obstacles, determination, and drive), as the most crucial attribute for achieving long-term success in business, followed by "communication skills" and "leadership

-- 96 percent said standardized test scores are "not very important" to long-term success in business.

-- When asked how much weight should be attached to SAT scores in college admissions, 58 percent said "a lot of weight, but less than today's level" and "much less weight than today's levels."

-- Of the executives who could recall their SAT or ACT scores, the majority (37 percent) scored in the middling 1000 - 1299 range. This mirrors precisely the talent pool of meritorious applicants who possess enormous promise yet whose prospects of being admitted to top-tier institutions are diminished by undue reliance on SAT and ACT scores.

"These corporate leaders have a vested interest in having a balanced admission policy because they fish from the same talent pool as educators," National Urban League President Hugh B. Price said. "When the pool shrinks because of excessive reliance on standardized tests, it's the business world that suffers, not just our young people. That's why it's so critical for America's colleges and universities to weigh real-life dimensions of merit, talent and potential in the admissions process."

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