FERMIN LEAL/EDSOURCE TODAY
Students can practice with a free SAT online prep program. But UC will no longer require the test or the ACT alternative.

Saying they seek to protect low-income and minority students’ rightful chances for college admissions, civil rights organizations and the Compton School District followed through with their threat and filed lawsuits Tuesday demanding that the University of California stop requiring that applicants take the SAT or ACT entrance exams for freshman college admission.

“The requirement that all applicants submit SAT or ACT scores systematically and unlawfully denies talented and qualified students with less accumulated advantage a fair opportunity to pursue higher education at the UC,” declared the lawsuits filed in Superior Court in Alameda County. UC’s central administrative office is located in Oakland, in that county.

“Every UC admissions cycle that evaluates applicants based on their SAT and ACT scores irreparably damages the futures of tens of thousands of students who are capable of excelling at the UC campuses of their choice and benefiting from the opportunities and supports a UC education provides, causing unjustifiable squandering of time and resources and intense stress for them, their families, and their schools.”

The suits had been threatened since October when the coalition first announced a broad campaign against the testing mandate. The legal action comes as a UC faculty panel is studying the future use of such standardized tests. That committee is reviewing whether to drop the exams, seek to change or replace them or to continue their requirements, possibly giving them less weight in admissions decisions. A report is expected early next year with a decision by the regents soon after.

In recent weeks, pressure on the university to drop the testing requirements increased as UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ came out strongly in favor of ending the testing requirement.

The lawsuit, Kawika Smith v. Regents, was filed on behalf of four California students, including Smith, a low-income African-American high school senior in the South Los Angeles area who has been active in education reform efforts. It alleges that the tests are biased against low-income, black and Latino students.

Also joining the legal action were the Compton school district, which predominately serves low-income black and Latino children, and six organizations including College Access Plan, Little Manila Rising, Dolores Huerta Foundation, College Seekers, Chinese for Affirmative Action and Community Coalition.

They are represented by the law firms Public Counsel, Scheper Kim & Harris, Equal Justice Society and Miller Advocacy Group. Compton Unified School District is represented by Olivarez Madruga Lemieux O’Neill, LLP.

The court filing described Smith as a good student at the Roman Catholic school he attends, despite traumas of homelessness and violence in his life. While he has participated in free SAT prep programs, those were inadequate compared to the costly private coaching some classmates were able to afford, the suit contends. The young man hopes to attend UC Berkeley or UCLA, but “unless his scores increase dramatically, he is unlikely to gain admission at any UC campus,” it says.

UC issued a statement Tuesday saying: “We are disappointed that plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit when the University of California has already devoted substantial resources to studying this complex issue and has announced that the Academic Senate’s Task Force will provide recommendations before the end of this academic year.”

The 23-campus California State University also requires standardized test scores for freshman application. The litigants said they did not seek to change CSU’s policy now since they expect that it will change if UC ends the SAT or ACT mandates.

The College Board, which sponsors the SAT, has defended the test and noted the SAT was overhauled in 2016 to better measure what students are learning in high school and now emphasizes the skills most needed for college readiness.

The UC faculty task force is looking at options beyond simply dumping all standardized tests. These include changes in the material tested by the SAT and ACT; replacing the exams with the state-mandated Smarter Balanced tests, aligned with the Common Core and given in all California high schools; or changing the way test scores are weighted compared with high school grades in making admissions decisions.

The UC regents’ ultimate decision will be enormously influential just by the sheer number of freshman applicants to UC’s nine undergraduate campuses: more than 176,500 students applied last year with most trying to get into several UC schools. Applicants must present scores from either the SAT or ACT exams.

The study will analyze potential impacts of any changes on admissions and graduation rates among various income, ethnic and geographic groups. And it will explore possible unintended results if tests are eliminated and applications are judged based solely on grades and extracurricular activities. Critics warn of pressure on high school teachers to give higher grades and whether some unethical applicants might feel they have to fabricate extracurricular activities.

Share Article

Comments (8)

Leave a Reply to el

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Karl 4 months ago4 months ago

    Obstacles exist to see how bad you want something. Teach kids how to deal with and overcome obstacles in life.

  2. Joe Alonso 6 months ago6 months ago

    Compton School District need I say more? Improve your school curriculum. Students from our high school don’t have problems getting into top tier schools.

  3. Lester S Hill 6 months ago6 months ago

    This is an excuse for underachieving and is a victim blame game straight out of Compton!

  4. Paul Muench 6 months ago6 months ago

    Before we had Varsity Blues we had the Atlanta standardized testing “miracle.” The miracle turned out to be a fraud. According to Wikipedia 35 educators were indicted and all but 12 took plea deals. 11 of the 12 educators were found guilty. At least 3 of the educators were sentenced to 20 years in jail to serve 7, which were eventually reduced to 3 years.

  5. Bo Loney 6 months ago6 months ago

    Some would argue that high school grades, which are also based on tests, can also be discriminatory to the teacher's bias. Not to mention there is no uniform teaching, grading or curve among high schools. Therefore there could never be equal grading. In order to be completely fair every school would have to have the exact same curriculum, the grading system should be interconnected throughout all schools and the curve would have to … Read More

    Some would argue that high school grades, which are also based on tests, can also be discriminatory to the teacher’s bias. Not to mention there is no uniform teaching, grading or curve among high schools. Therefore there could never be equal grading. In order to be completely fair every school would have to have the exact same curriculum, the grading system should be interconnected throughout all schools and the curve would have to be applied throughout every high school thuswise. In other words every high school would turn their papers to be graded into a conglomerate testing agency as a whole to be graded on a statewide curve.

  6. Mary Ellen 6 months ago6 months ago

    Every school library has SAT test prep books. Very few students get “the costly private coaching some classmates were able to afford.” Your score is a combination of natural intelligence and the amount of time you study. Tests are objective; high school grades aren’t.

    Replies

    • el 6 months ago6 months ago

      The SAT also rewards people who make decisions and can complete work quickly, which is an interesting skill and possibly helpful in college, but is by no means a prerequisite to being able to do challenging work. The essay portion judges being able to handwrite an organized essay quickly - which isn't so much how we expect anyone to write essays any longer. I applaud the College Board for adding more test centers and providing more … Read More

      The SAT also rewards people who make decisions and can complete work quickly, which is an interesting skill and possibly helpful in college, but is by no means a prerequisite to being able to do challenging work. The essay portion judges being able to handwrite an organized essay quickly – which isn’t so much how we expect anyone to write essays any longer.

      I applaud the College Board for adding more test centers and providing more opportunities for kids to test at their own schools. For myself, I know that the stress and difficulty of getting to a test center significantly affected my score the first time out, and I can see easily how unequal access to multiple attempts is another way that privileged kids have an advantage. For some families, it’s simply not possible to get their student to a distant test center early on a Saturday morning.

      Tests give you a number but that doesn’t make them objective. Even when carefully made and scored, tests represent a value judgement by the examiner which may or may not be valid for the marketed purpose. That the questions are about picking out data from a reading passage about football or a list of obscure vocabulary words instead of detailed questions about plant identification is a choice someone made.

      That said, I think the SAT does have some value, especially for identifying kids who maybe wouldn’t stand out without it. I will be interested to see what the UC report has to say.

  7. Bo Loney 6 months ago6 months ago

    I always feel the need to add because I feel like some statements are a generalization, that there are students who have had adversities (including disabilities, family issues and educational adversity to overcome), that have no test prep, that attended public school and score in the top 1% of the SAT and ACT. I feel like dismissing the SAT and ACT scores as simply a matter of monitory privilege is really not reflective of all the facts in every case.