University of California CAN’T use SAT and ACT to determine admission

University of California CAN’T use SAT and ACT test scores to determine admission since students with disabilities can’t access exams due to COVID pandemic, judge rules

  • Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman hands down injunction 
  • Judge says California public colleges can’t base admissions on SAT, ACT scores 
  • Advocates claimed COVID-19 pandemic limited accessibility to exams 
  • California regents board in May voted to phase out use of SAT, ACT test scores
  • Critics have long claimed standardized tests discriminate against minorities 

California’s nine public universities cannot use SAT or ACT test scores to determine which students are admitted and whether they qualify for scholarships, a state judge ruled on Monday.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman granted a preliminary injunction suspending the use of the test scores.

The ruling is a victory for advocates who claim the tests are broadly biased and that they put students who are unable to take the exams during the coronavirus pandemic at a disadvantage.

‘The barriers faced by students with disabilities have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 epidemic, which has disrupted test-taking locations, closed schools and limited access to school counselors,’ Seligman wrote in his ruling.

The judge said there was little evidence that showed test scores were reliable measures of a student’s potential academic performance in college.

The nine universities that make up the University of California's public higher education system will not be allowed to use SAT and ACT test scores to determine admission or awarded scholarships, a judge ruled on Monday. The campus of UCLA in Los Angeles is seen in the above file photo

The nine universities that make up the University of California’s public higher education system will not be allowed to use SAT and ACT test scores to determine admission or awarded scholarships, a judge ruled on Monday. The campus of UCLA in Los Angeles is seen in the above file photo 

The ruling applies to all California students seeking admission into the UC system.

‘The SAT and ACT are dead and gone as far as the UC system is concerned,’ said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer who runs the Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project.

The ‘historic decision puts an end to racist tests that deprived countless California students of color, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families of a fair shot at admissions to the UC system.’

Rosenbaum said the Public Counsel’s lawsuit specifically targeted the UC system so that the case can be more efficiently managed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But now he says that the California ruling should apply to all colleges and universities nationwide.

‘If other universities don’t follow, we’ll come after them as well,’ he said.

Rosenbaum said he will discuss further steps with advocates for minorities and the disabled in other parts of the country.

UC released a statement on Tuesday saying it ‘respectfully disagrees’ with the injunction and that it was studying its legal options.

‘An injunction may interfere with the university’s efforts to implement an appropriate and comprehensive admissions policies and its ability to attract and enroll students of diverse backgrounds and experiences,’ the statement said.

SAT officials did not respond to the injunction, though they have consistently argued that their exams do not discriminate against minorities.

The ruling is a victory for advocates who claim the tests are broadly biased and that they put students who are unable to take the exams during the coronavirus pandemic at a disadvantage. The above image is a stock photo of a standardized test

The ruling is a victory for advocates who claim the tests are broadly biased and that they put students who are unable to take the exams during the coronavirus pandemic at a disadvantage. The above image is a stock photo of a standardized test

Administrators of the ACT say they have made efforts to accommodate students with disabilities and are committed to ‘ensuring access to our assessment’ for them ‘despite the difficulties that COVID-19 has presented globally.’

Critics of the tests have long argued they put minority and low-income students at a disadvantage because the test questions often contain inherent bias that more privileged children are better equipped to answer.

Wealthier students also tend to take expensive prep courses that help boost their scores, which many students can’t afford, critics say.

In May, UC’s governing body announced that it would not use the SAT and ACT tests as admission requirements through 2024 and eliminate them for California residents after that.

The Board of Regents voted 23-0 to approve a proposal by UC President Janet Napolitano that phases the tests out over five years, at which point the UC aims to have developed its own test.

With California high school campuses closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UC had already made the tests optional for students who want to attend the fall 2021 sessions.

Under the plan approved Thursday, SAT and ACT tests will be optional for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years for all applicants.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman made the ruling on Monday

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman made the ruling on Monday

Starting in 2023 and continuing the following year, the admissions process will be ‘test blind’ for California residents, meaning SAT and ACT scores won’t be used in admissions decisions but could still be considered for purposes such as course placement and scholarships.

Napolitano asked the school’s academic senate to work with the administration on a plan for out-of-state and international students applying as of fall 2023.

In 2025, the 290,000-student UC system will either replace the SAT and ACT with its own admissions test, or if it’s unable to create its own exam, will eliminate its standardized testing requirement altogether.

Napolitano’s office said in a statement that assessing nonresident students ‘presents challenges in terms of fairness and practicality,’ but the options include extending the new tests for California students to out-of-state applicants or using some other standardized tests.

The decision by the massive UC system could be influential as other colleges nationwide eye similar decisions.

UC officials said they would begin working on the new test this summer.

Earlier this year, six Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Cornell, said they would not require next year’s applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on access to testing. 

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