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Friday, March 25, 2005; Page A09

Board Renews Use of PSAT As Qualifier for Scholarship

The trustees of the College Board voted unanimously yesterday to continue to use the PSAT as the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Program, despite criticism that using the practice test for the SAT to pick winners is unfair.

According to a statement issued by the nonprofit College Board, the trustees made their decision after hearing a report from a subcommittee studying aspects of the test.

The five-year contract to use the test is renewed annually, the College Board said. But this year, the decision came amid complaints that using the test in the selection of National Merit Scholars harms the poor and racial minorities, who on average score lower than whites on standardized tests.

The College Board co-sponsors the scholarship program with the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

A faculty committee at the University of California, the institution whose criticisms of the SAT partly prompted the College Board to revise that test, has asked UC campuses to reconsider their participation.

Every year, 15,000 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on PSAT results. Finalists are then chosen using other factors, including essays, academic records and letters of recommendation.

Nightclub Overcrowding Cited in Report on Fatal Fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Station nightclub was overcrowded the night of the fire that killed 100 people, and the owners broke the law repeatedly by allowing the establishment to exceed its legal capacity, prosecutors say.

In court papers filed Tuesday, prosecutors said there were 458 people inside the West Warwick club when the fire occurred on Feb. 20, 2003 -- 54 more than allowed under limits set by the town's fire marshal.

The filing was the first time the state has given its count of the number of people believed to have been inside the club on the night of the fire.

Many of the victims died when they were caught in a pile at the main doorway as they tried to flee the inferno, which broke out, prosecutors said, when pyrotechnics set off by the rock group Great White ignited flammable soundproofing.

• JONESBORO, Ga. -- Superior Court Judge Ben Miller ruled that a suburban Atlanta sheriff had no right to fire 27 employees en masse when he took office in January. Miller said the employees were protected under Clayton County's civil service system. Sheriff Victor Hill had argued that the employees could be fired at will. He said he will appeal. After the firing, the judge issued a temporary injunction forcing Hill to reinstate them. Four did not return.

• DENVER -- The University of Colorado ordered a review of its tenure system after one of its professors, Ward Churchill, created a furor by likening World Trade Center victims to Nazis. The Board of Regents voted to form a panel to examine the way the school awards tenure and the way professors are evaluated after they get it.

-- From News Services

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