UC President Janet Napolitano recommends Board of Regents suspends use of ACT, SAT, finds other options

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UC President Janet Napolitano recommended that UC campuses suspend use of the ACT and SAT standardized tests as admissions requirements until 2024 in a proposal to be considered by the UC Board of Regents at its May 21 meeting.

In the action item, Napolitano recommended standardized tests be suspended as requirements for the next two years to give the university time to modify or replace them with an option that more accurately assesses an applicant’s grasp on certain content. If UC administration is unable to effectively do so in time for the tests to be taken by fall 2025 applicants, Napolitano recommended that the system eliminate the use of standardized tests altogether.

“The proposal from the president is a really good sign,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar. “The likelihood that the university and the Board of Regents decides to go at least test optional for the future is significantly more likely now.”

According to Sarveshwar, the question of whether or not to suspend use of the tests was raised last year as advocates said they thought the tests disadvantaged low-income students and people of color.

As a result, the Academic Senate established a Standardized Testing Task Force, or STTF, to investigate the ability of such tests to accurately gauge academic performance.

Napolitano’s proposal is based on the task force’s findings, which were released in January. STTF found that while test scores can effectively be used to predict student success, they can also contribute to underrepresentation in admissions decisions. Ultimately, the task force recommended that standardized  tests remain in use for the time being.

“While well-intentioned, the current policy discussion on standardized testing ignores decades of research findings that show test scores are a valid, reliable and effective indicator of students’ readiness for college,” said ACT spokesperson Tarah DeSousa in an email.

If adopted, the proposal would effectively establish a five year plan that would first make it optional for students to submit test scores for consideration with their applications through 2022. Starting in 2023, the university would practice “test-blind” admissions selection where scores are not considered at all, and by 2024, a viable replacement would be found or the tests would be eliminated altogether.

It remains unclear whether these new rules would apply to out-of-state or international students. In the proposal, Napolitano requested that the Academic Senate work with the administration to determine an appropriate approach for those students.

“If the university decides to go test optional, it would send a very big signal to universities across California and the United States that they can go that way as well,” Sarveshwar said. “This is a big, prestigious flagship university. I don’t think it’s possible to convey how big it would be if the UC decided to do that.”

Contact Jake Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.