New York Law Protects Sabbath Observers on Admissions Tests; National Protection Being Sought

Intensification of an effort by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) to obtain a Sabbath protection amendment to the planned Truth-in-Testing law was announced here today, by Howard Zuckerman, COLPA president, following approval by the New York Legislature of such an amendment, the first such state law.

The new law, adopted by the Assembly and Senate with no opposition votes, provides that Sabbath-observing students have a legal night to take college and professional admissions tests on days other than Saturdays, the day when such examinations are normally given.

The new state law, known as the “Silver Amendment,” after its principal sponsor, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, Manhattan Democrat, received final legislative approval on June 13, when the State Senate approved it, 50-0. The Assembly approved it unanimously in February. It was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Kenneth LaVolle, Suffolk Republican and Donald Halperin Brooklyn Democrat.

The Silver Amendment, drafted with COLPA’s assistance, requires mat “when regular test administrations are given on days of religious observance which prevent attendance by test subjects at such regular administrations, special administrations shall be offered soon after before as is possible, at comparable times, places and cost.”

COVERS ALL ADMISSIONS EXAMINATIONS

Zuckerman said the new law covers such examinations as the College Entrance Examinations, Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT), Law School Admission Tests (LSAT), Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), Medical School Admissions Tests, Dental School Admissions Tests and similar examinations.

The problem for observant students cross when the State Legislature adopted on Admission Testing Law, popularly known as the “truth-in-testing” law, which became effective in August 1979. That law requires that, within 30 days following grading of a standardized admission test, questions used in the test must be mode public.

The testing agencies–the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB), which administers the SAT, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), and other testing agencies–responded that the new law would force them to reduce drastically the number of alternate dates for Sabbath observers because the new law bars them from re-use of test question.

Prior to adoption of the Admission Testing Law, the CEEB gave seven Saturday tests each year and seven alternations dates. The LSAC gave five examinations throughout the year, with five alternate Sunday or Monday dates.

Zuckerman said that the problem posed by the ban on re-use of test questions was resolved by an amendment to the truth-in-testing law, approved at the same time the Silver Amendment was passed, which provides for a formula to reduce both the number of examinations to be made public and the number of questions in those examinations to be made public.

A spokesman for the Education Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., the principal advisory agency for the various testing services, said that the situation now in regard to the number of tests and alternate dates was the same as it was before the truth-in-testing law, was adopted.

SEEK CHANGE ON TWO LEVELS

Dennis Rapps, COLPA executive director, said that COLPA plans to act at two levels to get a similar national law, now that the state law has been enacted. He said one approach will be to deal with other legislators at the state level, citing the existence of the New York State law.

The other, he said, will be to mobilize support for a bill on the national level, which has been introduced in the House by Rep. Theodore Weiss (D.NY), for which hearings have been tentatively scheduled for August. A counterpart bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

Rapps said COLPA acted in the New York Sabbath student protection measures on behalf of Yeshiva University; Yeshiva High School Principals Council of Greater New York; Agudath Israel of America; Young Israel; the Rabbinical Council of Yeshiva Principals; the National Association of Hebrew PTAs, the Educators Council of New York and the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America.

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