UC Academic Council releases report on effectiveness of standardized testing

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The UC Academic Council’s Standardized Testing Task Force published its report on the effectiveness of using standardized testing for admissions Monday.

In the report, members of the task force found that standardized testing — including the SAT and ACT — are helpful in “predicting” aspects of “student success,” such as undergraduate grade point averages. Although test scores can be used as predictors of success, according to the report, scores can also contribute to underrepresentation in admissions decisions.

A group of students and nonprofit organizations brought a lawsuit against the UC system in December 2019, alleging that the two tests violate the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution. According to Gregory Ellis, an attorney at Scheper Kim & Harris LLP, the law firm representing some of the plaintiffs, the findings of the report have no bearing on the lawsuit and may actually support it.

“The report doesn’t address the legality of the situation,” Ellis said. “Looking at some of the statistical analyses, it does acknowledge the widespread impacts that we address in the complaint.”

The most disparate effects of standardized testing can be seen along the lines of race, ethnicity, wealth, language and disability, Ellis added. According to the report, the UC system’s admissions processes attempt to compensate for these differences through a “comprehensive review” comprised of 14 total factors, which include GPA, socioeconomic status and completion of the university’s A-G requirements.

The report offered six recommendations, including a reassessment of the UC system’s eligibility criteria for admissions, another analysis of factors that contribute to underrepresentation and the development of a new assessment that could build upon existing tests.

The Standardized Testing Task Force’s evidence-based report shows that the thoughtful and responsible use of testing by the University of California promotes diversity and success,” said College Board spokesperson Jerome White in an email.

The task force considered making the use of standardized tests optional in the application process but ultimately did not make this recommendation. According to the report, the UC system should conduct more research on the potential effects of making the tests optional before reaching a decision.

Making the tests optional in the near future may help alleviate issues currently faced by students, said UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshwar. She added that additional testing and research could take up to nine years and would require a very complicated process.

“At the end of the day, the test has detrimental effects on students of color, in low-income families and individuals with disabilities,” Sarveshwar said. “It doesn’t feel like the test is treating us all equally.”

The UC Academic Senate will finalize the report with the input of UC system faculty in March and present any recommendations to UC President Janet Napolitano in April.

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.