Lawyers urge UC to eliminate standardized tests

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In a letter addressed Tuesday to the UC Board of Regents, lawyers representing organizations such as the Compton Unified School District and the Community Coalition demanded that the UC system eliminate standardized tests as an admissions requirement.

The letter alleges that standardized tests unlawfully discriminate against disabled, low-income and underrepresented minority students.

In July 2018, UC President Janet Napolitano requested that the UC Academic Senate conduct a formal review based on historical data on the use of standardized testing for university admission. The Board of Regents met Sept. 19 to discuss a timeline for potentially eliminating standardized tests from applications and is currently waiting for a recommendation from the UC Berkeley Academic Senate before voting on the matter.

“The main thrust of the letter is that the UC Regents and the University of California has to allow for equitable access to capable students from across the board,” said Of Counsel with the Equal Justice Society Lisa Holder, who took part in composing the letter. “Since the SAT is a barrier to equal opportunity, they need to eliminate it just like so many other universities have done in the past couple of years.”

The letter states that high school GPA is the strongest predictor of four-year college outcomes, not SAT or ACT scores.

The UC Office of the President could not make a statement regarding the letter at this time.

The letter employed notable information from the College Board’s 2018 data for students taking the SAT in California, showing that 44% of white students scored 1200 or above, compared to only 10% of Black students and 12% of Latinx students, which was proportionally replicated on a national scale.

“The ACT test is not discriminatory nor biased,” said ACT spokesperson Ed Colby in an email. “ACT test results reflect inequities in access and quality of education, shining a light on where they exist. Blaming standardized tests for differences in educational quality and opportunities that exist will not improve educational outcomes.”

Public Counsel was among the four other legal firms and nonprofits that sent the letter on behalf of three students and groups, including the Dolores Huerta Foundation, College Access Plan, College Seekers and Little Manila Rising.

Amanda Savage, a staff attorney at Public Counsel and part of the legal team that composed the letter, said the UC system is the preeminent public institution of higher education in California and, arguably, nationwide. Savage alleged that the UC system should therefore eliminate standardized tests in admissions because of its usage as a “discriminatory metric” for students with less access to wealth.

Standardized tests are already being discontinued as admissions requirements by colleges and universities nationwide, such as the University of Chicago and Bowdoin College.

“Higher education is the linchpin of so many future life opportunities that, while we are focused on higher education here, it’s bound up within larger questions about access to opportunity in this country,” Savage said.

Contact Olivia Buccieri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @obuccieri_dc‏.