UC Board of Regents votes to phase out SAT, ACT from admissions

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In a unanimous vote, the UC Board of Regents decided to eliminate use of the SAT and ACT in the admissions process for California applicants by 2025 in a meeting Thursday.

During the meeting, several people, including UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, other UC chancellors and UC professors, offered differing views on the proposed plan. Some topics dominating the discussion included racial bias in the standardized tests, economic barriers to resources and the ability of the tests to measure success on UC campuses.

“Today’s decision by the Board marks a significant change for the University’s undergraduate admissions,” said UC President Janet Napolitano in a press release from the UC Office of the President, or UCOP. “We are removing the ACT/SAT requirement for California students and developing a new test that more closely aligns with what we expect incoming students to know to demonstrate their preparedness for UC.”

Napolitano’s proposal states that for the next two years, the admissions process will be test-optional, meaning applicants to UC schools can choose whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT scores. In the following two years, admissions will be test-blind, so standardized tests will only be used for purposes such as course placement and scholarship eligibility.

Beginning this summer until January 2021, the UC system plans to determine whether it will be able to create its own test or use existing tests that better align with the indicators of potential success that admissions officers are searching for. If it cannot have its own test ready in time for fall 2025 applicants, the UC system will eliminate the SAT and ACT from the admissions process for California applicants, according to the proposal.

The board already approved a measure to make the SAT and ACT optional for fall 2021 applicants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the new plan adds another year to this test-optional policy.

The UC Academic Senate’s Standardized Testing Task Force presented data at the meeting relating the SAT and ACT to specific measures of undergraduate success. Its findings show that standardized test scores correlate with specific measures of college success and advise against adopting a test-optional admissions policy.

According to the UCOP press release, the Academic Senate will need to reevaluate how to determine Eligibility in the Local Context, or ELC, for California high schoolers because of the new policy. ELC identifies students at the top of their graduating classes, and qualifying students are guaranteed admission to a UC campus where space is available.

The Academic Senate must also reconsider how to move forward with out-of-state and international applicants, according to the press release.

While many board members agreed at the meeting that aspects of the SAT and ACT are flawed, some disagreed on the best path forward. Multiple members raised concerns about the first two years of the plan throughout the meeting.

“The test-optional if anything is probably the one that exacerbates the inequity,” said Regent William Um during the meeting. “By creating a test optional you’re basically not making really much of an option — it just means you get a good score, you’re going to be submitting it.”

Regent Jonathan Sures then proposed an amendment to accept only the first two years of the new plan, expressing a desire to gather and analyze more data before making a final decision on the fate of the standardized tests. The amendment was rejected in an 18-5 vote.

Some board members expressed concern that a new test would raise similar problems to existing standardized tests.

Napolitano recommended conducting a feasibility study to answer concerns about a potential new test.

“We should deliver that feasibility study by January, at which point we could conclude that a new test is really not feasible and stop that project altogether — or, more likely, we would have designed a pathway forward to a new test,” Napolitano said during the meeting.

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.