The University of California System Will No Longer Require SAT/ACT Scores After Test Biases Called Out by Students

The University of California has agreed to no longer take SAT and ACT test scores into consideration from school and scholarship applicants in a massive win for minority students and those with disabilities.

The ruling, which was announced on Friday, May 14, signals the end of a drawn-out court battle between the University of California system and students over whether considering scores from the tests put students with disabilities and those from low-income families at a disadvantage when applying to the system’s universities.

The lawsuit filed in 2019 on behalf of a coalition of students, advocacy groups, and the Compton Unified School District, a majority Black and Hispanic district in Los Angeles County, claimed that low-income students of color weren’t as equally equipped as their privileged counterparts to answer test questions correctly due to inherent bias within the tests. It also pointed out that wealthier students oftentimes had more access to tools to help them succeed, such as test prep courses and workbooks. Students with disabilities claimed that testing obstacles were presented in the form of difficulties procuring transportation to and from testing sites.

According to Amanda Savage, an attorney representing the students, the new agreement “ensures that the university will not revert to its planned use of the SAT and ACT — which its own regents have admitted are racist metrics.” Although scores can still be submitted voluntarily and used for individual course placement, they will not consider them while determining admission or scholarship applications between fall 2021 and spring 2025.

The settlement is an expansion on the previous ruling by the UC Board of Regents in 2020 to drop the tests as admission requirements through 2024 and eliminate them for California residents completely after that.

College Board, the organization responsible for creating the SAT, agreed that “real inequities exist in American education,” but stated that “the SAT itself is not a racist instrument.”

In a statement, College Board executive director for communications Zach Goldberg said, “Real inequities exist in American education, and they are reflected in every measure of academic achievement, including the SAT. The SAT itself is not a racist instrument. Every question is rigorously reviewed for evidence of bias and any question that could favor one group over another is discarded.”

In Fall 2020, following the initial UC Board of Regents ruling, campuses saw “significant growth of freshman applications from African American students, with an increase of 1,505 applications or 21.8 percent, as well as Chicano/Latino students, with a jump of 5,250 or 12.2 percent,” the university system reported

“The makeup of this year’s applicants already show that students are no longer deterred from applying based on their inability to access standardized testing,” Marci Lerner Miller, another attorney representing the students, said. “We’re confident that this settlement will lead to students demonstrating their abilities, rather than their disabilities, in the application process.”

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