- Jun 10, 2008
UC regents vote to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements for admission, marking a turning point in the debate over standardized test scores.
In a decision that could reshape the nation’s college admissions process, University of California regents unanimously voted Thursday to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements through 2024 and eliminate them for California students by 2025.
The action by the nation’s premier public university system could mark a turning point in the long-running debate over whether the standardized tests unfairly discriminate against disadvantaged students or provide a useful tool to evaluate college applicants.
Under the plan, standardized test results will be optional on applications for the next two years and then eliminated for California students in Years 3 and 4. By fall 2025, the UC system is aiming to have its own assessment. If none is developed by then, the university will drop the SAT and ACT tests entirely for California students and evaluate them using high school grades and a dozen other factors in its comprehensive review system.
Critics say the SAT and ACT are heavily influenced by race, income and parental education levels; question the exams’ value in predicting college success; and express concern about inequitable access to test prep. Those concerns have prompted more than 1,000 colleges and universities to drop the testing requirement. A lawsuit against the UC system also calls for the requirement to be dropped.
But the College Board and ACT strongly assert that their tests are not biased and that they reflect existing inequities in access to quality education. They also say that standardized tests offer a uniform and helpful yardstick for use, in tandem with grades, in assessing students in high schools across the country.
Several regents praised Napolitano for striking a compromise between the factions.
“She did an excellent job threading the needle,” said Vice Chair Cecilia Estolano, who called the SAT a “racist test.”
But some members of the powerful UC Academic Senate, which sets admission standards, said they were disheartened by what they saw as disregard of their research report on standardized testing, which Napolitano requested in 2018.
In what researchers called surprising findings, the Academic Senate’s review found that the SAT helps disadvantaged students gain entry to the selective UC system. That’s because the way UC uses standardized test scores substantially corrects for bias by weighting them less heavily than grades and considering them as only one of many factors in the review process. Campuses adjust for socioeconomic differences and admit disadvantaged students with lower test scores compared with more advantaged peers.
The task force recommended that the university system keep the SAT and ACT for now while researching alternatives, such as going test-optional or developing UC’s own assessment. That report was backed by the Senate assembly, made up of faculty leaders and campus representatives, on a 51-0 vote, with one abstention.
Other researchers, however, have criticized the task force’s findings as erroneous and ill-founded in rejecting proposals to replace the SAT and ACT with the K-12 assessment.
Eddie Comeaux, a UC Riverside professor who heads the Senate’s committee on admission standards and co-chaired the testing task force, said politics and public perceptions more than data appeared to drive the decision to a preordained conclusion.
Pretty interesting. Who knows what the college admissions landscape will look like in five or ten years. I personally think there are legitimate concerns regarding how the SAT benefits students who can afford expensive test prep courses, but racist? Not seeing it, bro. I personally feel that tests like the SAT and GRE have allowed me to stand out, as my grades were fairly lackluster. I otherwise might not have been admitted to the schools I was.