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

University of California must suspend all use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions, a judge ruled, siding with attorneys representing students with disabilities who argued that those students have not been able to access the tests during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling affects six of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses that have gone test-optional, giving students the choice of whether to submit their test scores when they apply. 

“There’s never been such a thing as a level playing field to admissions for our most underrepresented students, but this ruling at least evened that field a significant bit,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a director of the public interest law firm Public Counsel, which is one of the firms representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit. 

In May, the system’s Board of Regents voted to stop requiring the exams in admissions but allowed campuses to give applicants the option of submitting test scores through fall 2022. Three campuses — Berkeley, Irvine and Santa Cruz — decided not to accept test scores at all, while Davis, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego and Santa Barbara gave students the option to submit them.

In a statement, the UC system said it “respectfully disagrees” with Tuesday’s ruling and is “evaluating whether further legal actions are called for.” UC added that each campus “carefully assessed” whether to use SAT and ACT scores for fall 2021 and fall 2022.

“University admissions officials and faculty are best positioned to determine appropriate admissions decisions and procedures, taking into account the individual needs and priorities of a particular campus,” UC said in the statement, which was attributed both to the Board of Regents and the systemwide president’s office.

In a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the plaintiffs argued that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted testing locations, many students with disabilities were not able to access suitable testing sites.

The judge, Brad Seligman, agreed and wrote that while Covid-19 has “disrupted the testing process for many students,” the barriers facing students with disabilities “are indisputably significantly greater” than those facing non-disabled students. 

Seligman issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the UC campuses from using SAT or ACT test results while the lawsuit is ongoing. He scheduled the next court date for Sept. 29.

“Plaintiffs have shown that they are denied meaningful access to the additional ‘benefit, aid or service’ that the test option affords. Unlike their non-disabled peers, they do not have the option to submit test scores; even if they did, their chances of obtaining necessary test accommodations are virtually non-existent,” Seligman wrote.

The ruling does not directly impact the state’s other four-year university system, California State University, which decided to go test-optional for the 2021-22 academic year. 

Attorneys for the plaintiffs praised Seligman’s ruling. The decision “correctly recognized that what the Regents had done was set up a test-optional scheme for students without disabilities,” said Rosenbaum. 

One student and plaintiff in the lawsuit, identified as “Gary W,” has learning disabilities and decided to take a gap year rather than apply to UC campuses. According to the lawsuit, he has faced “formidable barriers to taking the SAT, and has been unable to do so.” If he had been able to take the SAT, or if UC campuses did not accept any test scores, he would have applied, the lawsuit states.

 “We are so proud of the courage the student plaintiffs showed by taking on the biggest university system and testing organizations in the country,” Abigail Graber, an attorney with the law firm Brown Goldstein & Levy, said in a statement. “We hope the light they and the court have shined on the barriers students with disabilities face will help guide a movement toward inclusive and equitable access to higher education.”

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  1. Distressed Parent 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I can appreciate that the student at the center of this lawsuit has had difficulty finding testing with appropriate accommodations; however, there were, and still are, multiple additional test dates at the time this suit was filed. Why not work to get the proper accommodations, instead of taking away opportunities from others? Perhaps he wasn't going to score well no matter the accommodations? My son put in significant amounts of time last summer and … Read More

    I can appreciate that the student at the center of this lawsuit has had difficulty finding testing with appropriate accommodations; however, there were, and still are, multiple additional test dates at the time this suit was filed. Why not work to get the proper accommodations, instead of taking away opportunities from others? Perhaps he wasn’t going to score well no matter the accommodations?

    My son put in significant amounts of time last summer and fall, well before Covid, to ensure that he got a top score. He knew this was how he could attempt to stand out in the massively overcrowded mass of UC applicants. We all know that testing and grades are not the whole picture, and not ideal, but you can’t change the rules on the kids at the last second and call it a fair playing field.

  2. Terri 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I think this is the right call. We also paid for study guides and our son was weeks into intense preparation for the March ACT and it was canceled, along with every ACT and SAT since. After months of waiting and wondering if he should keep studying and even considering flying to another state to take the exam (which two families we know of have done) I am relieved by this. Most students … Read More

    I think this is the right call. We also paid for study guides and our son was weeks into intense preparation for the March ACT and it was canceled, along with every ACT and SAT since. After months of waiting and wondering if he should keep studying and even considering flying to another state to take the exam (which two families we know of have done) I am relieved by this.

    Most students take these exams more than once in the hopes of improving their scores and these kids certainly won’t get that opportunity if their scores are less than desirable the first time. I wish this was ordered months ago.

  3. Concerned Mom 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Clearly discrimination against smart students!

  4. Nancy 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    UC announced that SAT was optional in spring, so my daughter has been studying so hard till now in the hope of taking SAT this fall to compensate for her mediocre GPA, but now the court took away her last hope in last minutes …. it is so cruel and not fair.

  5. Doreen 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I feel that the ruling is unnecessary because many campuses under the UC system already made the SAT and ACT score an option. Students with disabilities who do not have a chance to sit for the admission exam can demonstrate their gifted talents through other means like the school GPA, the extracurricular activities or other accomplishments. Therefore, the SAT and ACT admission score is not the first important measurement to define a student intelligence. … Read More

    I feel that the ruling is unnecessary because many campuses under the UC system already made the SAT and ACT score an option. Students with disabilities who do not have a chance to sit for the admission exam can demonstrate their gifted talents through other means like the school GPA, the extracurricular activities or other accomplishments. Therefore, the SAT and ACT admission score is not the first important measurement to define a student intelligence.

    The ruling also penalizes other students who already took the exam and got a good score as a result of their early college planning. I believe that the UC system already has a system to evaluate the applications from the students with disabilities.

  6. Justin 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Great, I guess all the long hours coaching and helping my "overprivileged" white daughter through the SAT prep books have been wasted. There's no meritocracy or hard work, she's just a beneficiary of "white privilege." With a relatively good SAT score (91st percentile), she was really looking forward to having that side of her story come to light. The SATs were first offered last October, before Covid. Most kids that were serious about college took … Read More

    Great, I guess all the long hours coaching and helping my “overprivileged” white daughter through the SAT prep books have been wasted. There’s no meritocracy or hard work, she’s just a beneficiary of “white privilege.”

    With a relatively good SAT score (91st percentile), she was really looking forward to having that side of her story come to light. The SATs were first offered last October, before Covid. Most kids that were serious about college took them then. For this judge to imply that the ones who sacrificed to play by the rules and worked hard to increase their chances at admittance at a UC are purely beneficiaries of “white privilege” is really very wrong.

    Last I checked, the admittances for white kids at UC were like 21% compared to the state’s 38% white, non-hispanic population. There is zero room for white middle class families in CA when it comes to the UC. I’m hoping that this is overturned quickly.

    Replies

    • Mel 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      My understanding of what he meant was that kids who have support with tutors and prep classes are at an advantage over those who do not. This is different from those with disabilities but is also a valid point. I doubt my son would have done as well without the prep.

  7. Bo Loney 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I don't think we have even began to touch the true complexity of intelligence and potential or how to even measure it accurately. I don't believe it is fully GPA or test scores. I believe GPA is fallible in the event that our schools are autonomous and grades are reflective of classroom curves and human bias. I believe GPA is useful to a degree. GPA would be more useful if … Read More

    I don’t think we have even began to touch the true complexity of intelligence and potential or how to even measure it accurately. I don’t believe it is fully GPA or test scores. I believe GPA is fallible in the event that our schools are autonomous and grades are reflective of classroom curves and human bias. I believe GPA is useful to a degree. GPA would be more useful if everyone in the state had to take the same class, with the same teacher and their assignments and tests be graded as a whole on the same curve. only then would there be that level of “fair grading”.

    I believe AP and SAT scores are useful. We are all still infants here and losing potential contributions of people we aren’t letting into university. The fact of the matter IS that we need more spots at University. Period. If someone has a desire to learn more and prove themselves we should be providing that the opportunity.

  8. john 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    AP is the next, followed by the school records and the letters of recommendation.

  9. Bo Loney 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    This fails to provide an opportunity for students with disabilities that are also gifted. Students whose gifts are masked in the general classroom by their disabilities. Gifted students with disabilities whose grades don't reflect their true potential. An example would be students with dysgraphia not being able or not wanting to stick out in the classroom for using a laptop during testing and taking lesser grades. A student who also will score 5s on AP … Read More

    This fails to provide an opportunity for students with disabilities that are also gifted. Students whose gifts are masked in the general classroom by their disabilities. Gifted students with disabilities whose grades don’t reflect their true potential. An example would be students with dysgraphia not being able or not wanting to stick out in the classroom for using a laptop during testing and taking lesser grades. A student who also will score 5s on AP Tests and be in the top 1% on SAT may not have the best grades. There is a place for these tests.

    What we really need to be talking about is providing more spots at University for all who want to attend. Providing online degrees will help all of us pursue our dreams.

    Replies

    • Furnace Lee 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      I could not agree more. This really hurts students with disabilities who have overcome their challenges and done well. My daughter has ADHD. She also has a 35 on the ACT. Her grades aren’t perfect. This puts her at a disadvantage. It’s a terrible, ill-informed decision with no legal basis.

    • DH 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      The point is that students have not been afforded equal opportunity to sit for these tests due to the pandemic, and where testing has been available, the accomodations for those students with disabilities have not. The May AP test was a great example. My child was told the week prior there would be no extra time granted for the exam (one of their accomodations). Test scores under "normal" conditions for these students do not reflect … Read More

      The point is that students have not been afforded equal opportunity to sit for these tests due to the pandemic, and where testing has been available, the accomodations for those students with disabilities have not.

      The May AP test was a great example. My child was told the week prior there would be no extra time granted for the exam (one of their accomodations). Test scores under “normal” conditions for these students do not reflect their ability and as such cannot be judged in comparison with students without disabilities or against previous years’ scores of students with disabilities. The judge made the right decision.

      • Applying Student 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

        While I agree that there needs to be more accommodations for this time, there's a flaw in the argument that equal opportunity is as large of a problem as say, active discrimination against disabled students. This quote comes from UCLA, in which UCLA states that test scores are not in any way required and can only improve an application, and not having a score available will not negatively effect an application. "UCLA recognizes that demand … Read More

        While I agree that there needs to be more accommodations for this time, there’s a flaw in the argument that equal opportunity is as large of a problem as say, active discrimination against disabled students. This quote comes from UCLA, in which UCLA states that test scores are not in any way required and can only improve an application, and not having a score available will not negatively effect an application.

        “UCLA recognizes that demand for SAT/ACT administrations this fall may be challenging due to COVID-related cancellations in recent months. In addition, we understand that there are real safety concerns about gathering to take a standardized test. If you have any of these concerns, we want to reiterate that submission of a test score is not required. As we stated above, no applicant will be disadvantaged in any way for not submitting an SAT or ACT score. Your safety is more important to us than a test score. All applications will be reviewed holistically, and testing has always been only one of many factors considered in our review process. We recognize that access, safety, and proper accommodations are huge factors in a student’s ability to take one of these exams. Optional means optional. We look forward to reading your application!”

        80-90% of students total didn’t get to test this year. While some areas are adapting tests, it still doesn’t push some students over others because there are so many important factors that go into a application that students with disabilities can express their challenges and how they overcame them, rather than focusing on one part of an application that is of decreased relevance this year.

        • Bo Loney 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

          You would be surprised at the amount of qualified, hard-working, extremely intelligent and completely active students the UC system turns away every year. Students that have and would add value to any campus they attend. Even before the pandemic and this issue with testing. Don't be surprised when you look around at the end of acceptance letters and find out the students you thought for sure were getting in (the ones that helped others study) … Read More

          You would be surprised at the amount of qualified, hard-working, extremely intelligent and completely active students the UC system turns away every year. Students that have and would add value to any campus they attend. Even before the pandemic and this issue with testing.

          Don’t be surprised when you look around at the end of acceptance letters and find out the students you thought for sure were getting in (the ones that helped others study) were rejected. What we need to be fighting for is more spots and ways (online) available to attain a degree. It’s cruel to tell every student from a young age that college is necessary and then not provide enough spots.