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Students at Millikan High in Long Beach review practice SAT materials as they prepare for the college admissions process.

Here in California’s third largest school district we see Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto of what was called The Pathways to College Act (Assembly Bill 751) as an unfortunate, missed opportunity to support under-represented students across the state.

Christopher Steinhauser

This bill would have opened doors to higher education by giving students the opportunity to take a college entrance exam during the school day in class for free, in lieu of the state’s 11th-grade assessment. The California Legislature had overwhelmingly passed the legislation, recognizing the proposal as an effort to level the playing field for students of all backgrounds.

In Long Beach, where we produce more than 5,000 high school graduates a year, we recently saw about 1,000 more high school students meet minimum California State University for admission compared to two years prior. That’s largely because so many more of these students had taken the SAT than before.

Having an SAT score is critical to earning admission to CSU. Many more of our students are taking the SAT these days because our school district offers the exam for free during the school day.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto message implied that using the SAT somehow exacerbates inequities for under-represented students, given that performance on these tests is highly correlated with race and parental income.

The problem with that reasoning is that correlation does not equal causation. On the contrary, denying low-income students access to free college entrance exams during the school day only exacerbates achievement gaps in California.

Educators in Long Beach have considerable experience tackling achievement gaps among students of varying races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

While we still have more work to do in that regard, our various student subgroups perform better than their counterparts in other large California school systems. That was affirmed in the recent Beating the Odds report from the Learning Policy Institute, an independent research institute.

We have succeeded where some others have lagged largely because we live by the pragmatic maxim that if we raise the bar at the same time that we provide the right support for kids, teachers and parents, then students will meet or exceed our expectations.

With two-thirds of our families unable to afford school meals, a free SAT opens up college opportunities for thousands more students who may not have previously considered themselves to be college material.

Our school-day SAT administrations, combined with individualized Khan Academy video tutorials, Saturday SAT prep sessions at our schools and other free, customized support for students, are working.

Significantly more students are becoming eligible for college admission. Our students seize these college prep opportunities with appreciation and gusto, arriving on time at 8 a.m. Saturday SAT prep sessions in droves because so many of their families do not have the resources it would take to obtain such tutoring privately.

A growing body of evidence shows that offering a college entrance exam like the SAT at no cost to students during the school day propels more students into college — and low-income students benefit the most.

When more students are able to take college admissions tests like the SAT, more underrepresented students can be connected directly to scholarships; free, personalized test practice tools and college application fee waivers.

The Pathways to College Act would have helped to prevent college admissions cheating by offering college admissions exams at school during the school day. Administering college admissions tests during the school day maintains a secure, reliable test environment by using school-appointed proctors who are familiar with their students.

The Pathways legislation also would have ensured that students with disabilities are provided their official, certified accommodations as requested by their dedicated specialists at school – accommodations such as access to testing instructions in their primary language, bilingual glossaries and extended testing time.

Almost all colleges and universities accept college entrance exams like the SAT; the vast majority of them require one. As California’s leaders look to close the achievement gap, denying low-income and under-represented minority students the ability to take these exams in school for free is a step backward.

•••

Christopher J. Steinhauser is superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the California State University system.

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  1. Dr.Bill Conrad 1 month ago1 month ago

    Two things can be true at the same time. While it is admirable to engage all students in taking the SATs for admission into college especially for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, English Leaarners, and Students with Disability, it is also imperative that we assess how well students perform relative to the math and reading standards. Assessment illiteracy continues to pervade the K-12 system. It is critical that we continue to support the state CAASPP assessment system … Read More

    Two things can be true at the same time.

    While it is admirable to engage all students in taking the SATs for admission into college especially for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, English Leaarners, and Students with Disability, it is also imperative that we assess how well students perform relative to the math and reading standards.

    Assessment illiteracy continues to pervade the K-12 system.

    It is critical that we continue to support the state CAASPP assessment system as a summative assessment mechanism to gauge the degree to which the professionals in the system are actually preparing students for success in meeting ELA and Math Standards. That is the purpose of a summative assessment – to measure adult performance primarily.

    The adults in the K-12 system are looking for ways to protect themselves from real accountability by substituting a college readiness exam for an exam that measures student achievement of the actual standards. It truly is just one more educational pathology that permeates the fog of K-12 education.

    The attitude ought to be: Bring it on! We are so good in preparing our students academically that we can demonstrate success on both the SATs and the CAASPP Assessments.

    Time to end the excuses and begin to address the root cause problems in curricula, professional practices, monitoring, and accountability!

    Time to look in the mirror.

    No?

  2. Victoria Brunn 1 month ago1 month ago

    I could not personally agree more. Of all the opportunities this was the one that should have made it across the governor’s desk in triumph. It is in fact a step backward that it did not. Who is advising the governor on these matters? What are the possibilities for the future?

  3. special k 1 month ago1 month ago

    Unfortunately, average achievement gaps among groups appear to be here to stay! And racial gaps persist at all family income levels For example, see https://lesacreduprintemps1...... The resistance of average performance on tests of reading writing and arithmetic to change has been well documented. For example, data for a recent 30-year period indicate the stability of average performance--for all students as well as students classified by race/ethnicity – on an internationally recognized test (the SAT). This … Read More

    Unfortunately, average achievement gaps among groups appear to be here to stay! And racial gaps persist at all family income levels For example, see https://lesacreduprintemps1…… The resistance of average performance on tests of reading writing and arithmetic to change has been well documented. For example, data for a recent 30-year period indicate the stability of average performance–for all students as well as students classified by race/ethnicity – on an internationally recognized test (the SAT). This table, from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education, shows SAT Critical Reading averages for selected years. Data for Asian-Americans indicate that they’re the only exception to that rule. Their average has improved steadily, and they’re now “leaders of the pack”.

    If SAT averages haven’t changed materially over at least three decades, despite the effort, time and money expended to improve educational programs for all students, it seems reasonable to assume that we shouldn’t expect any meaningful change in average performance in the foreseeable future. There are some things that more funding can’t buy – an unpleasant truth. It seems reasonable to assume that we shouldn’t expect any meaningful change in average performance in the foreseeable future – an unpleasant truth that can’t be acknowledged. However, schools can de-emphasize “going to college” and offer diverse programs that emphasize being all you can be.

  4. Judith Smalley 1 month ago1 month ago

    Governor Newsom made the right choice. These are not equivalent forms of the same test. You need to have a specialty in assessment to understand this concept. There is the time in the school year to administer both tests. Each test has a separate purpose.

  5. Bo Loney 1 month ago1 month ago

    I completely agree. The 4th year of high school math is also an excellent push towards success in higher education.