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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.

After doing away with the SAT and ACT in freshman admissions, the University of California should not develop its own standardized test or use any other standardized exam as an admissions requirement, a key university committee has recommended. 

Instead, the committee says UC should explore giving students the option to submit their 11th grade Smarter Balanced exams, the state’s annual standardized tests, for consideration when applying for admission to the system’s nine undergraduate campuses.

The committee determined that the Smarter Balanced exam would be an improvement from the SAT and ACT because unlike those exams, the Smarter Balanced test assesses curriculum that is aligned with standards being taught in the state’s public schools and with other UC admission requirements. 

The proposal, which will be in front of the UC Board of Regents next week for discussion, is far from being final. Even if it is implemented, it would not go into effect for several years and the test would need to be modified for use in admissions.

Already, the idea is facing some pushback. In fact, a majority of members of a UC work group that was tasked with studying the idea were opposed to using the Smarter Balanced test at all when selecting students for admission and submitted a memo criticizing the work group’s final report for not accurately representing their views. That report, which recommended further exploration of using the Smart Balanced exams in admissions, was the basis for the committee’s final recommendation.

The work group’s report acknowledged several potential issues with using the Smarter Balanced exams. For example, the report cited significant racial disparities in Smarter Balanced test scores just like there are in SAT and ACT scores. Those disparities were a main reason that the Regents decided to stop using the SAT and ACT in admissions. 

It’s also not clear what it would mean for students who don’t have access to the Smarter Balanced exams, including most out-of-state students, international students and private schools students. 

Ultimately, the committee determined that the Smarter Balanced test “has several features that render it worth” consideration, including that it measures the Common Core standards that are taught in California’s K-12 schools. Those standards are integrated into California’s A-G course requirements that students must take to be eligible for admission into the UC and the 23-campus California State University, the state’s other four-year university system. 

The committee also stressed that any use of Smarter Balanced exams in admissions should be low-stakes, which is why it recommended that UC consider giving students the option to submit their scores if they think it will help their application, without requiring them to do so.

“We propose that the Smarter Balanced Assessment be further studied and evaluated … and that it be considered for use in a manner that is different from the previous high-stakes use of the SAT or ACT,” UC Provost Michael Brown and UC Academic Senate Chair Mary Gauvain wrote in a letter to Michael Drake, the UC president. Brown and Gauvain were co-chairs of the committee. 

Last May, the UC Board of Regents voted to drop the SAT and ACT as a freshman admissions requirement. The work group was subsequently charged with determining whether UC should create its own test or use a different standardized test in freshman admissions and asked to submit a recommendation to a separate steering committee, which would then make a recommendation to the UC President’s office. 

The work group initially considered whether UC could develop its own standardized test. However, that idea was quickly ruled out, with the work group deciding it wouldn’t be possible to create a new test within the time constraints set by the Regents. The Regents specified that a new test would be needed for fall 2025 applicants, meaning that it would need to be implemented by spring 2024. The work group determined that it would take at least nine years to develop such a test.

Instead, the work group decided that it would be feasible to modify an existing test and, in its final report to the steering committee, specifically recommended “further exploration” of the Smarter Balanced assessment for admissions purposes.

In addition to being aligned with the state’s curriculum standards, the Smart Balanced test is also already administered free of charge to all public school students in California, meaning that there would be no extra cost for those students or their families.

However, the committee and the work group also acknowledged a number of potential downsides to using the Smarter Balanced exams. The Smarter Balanced test was not designed as an admissions test, so its use in admissions could be misguided. 

Smarter Balanced scores for 11th graders also show wide disparities across racial and ethnic lines. For example, the report notes that in mathematics, 70% of Asian students and 45% of white students meet or exceed standards, compared to 20% of Black and Latino students. It is unclear, according to the work group’s report, whether the Smarter Balanced test is any more equitable than the SAT and ACT. 

The Smarter Balanced exam is also offered just once to high school students, meaning they can’t retake the test in an effort to get a better score something that was an option with the SAT and ACT.

The work group was divided over whether UC should explore using Smarter Balanced exams in applicant selection. Ten of the work group’s 18 members submitted a memo voicing their opposition to the use of the exam when selecting students for admission. 

In that memo, the 10 members say that the final report “wrongly favors the opinion” of the work group’s minority “instead of our majority position.”

“In my experience, it is common for a minority opinion not to be adequately expressed in a group report, which we saw with the Faculty Task Force Report; however, it is either highly unusual or unheard of for a majority opinion not to be adequately expressed in a group report,” wrote Jay Rosner, the executive director of the Princeton Review Foundation and a member of the committee. He wrote the memo on behalf of himself and nine other members.

Rosner declined to comment Tuesday, saying it would be inappropriate to do so before the Regents have a chance to discuss the item. 

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  1. Jim 1 month ago1 month ago

    So they want to stick to the home schooled or otherwise SB ineligible?

  2. Steve Cordogan 2 months ago2 months ago

    Could someone conduct a study to reexamine these claims of alleged racial bias? I've studied this area multiple times, and in Illinois, a school's poverty level and percentage of minority students are highly intercorrelated in terms of explaining test scores. The tests also can be viewed as a measure of poverty. But is someone going to try to say that poverty does not impact student learning? The abandonment of test scores … Read More

    Could someone conduct a study to reexamine these claims of alleged racial bias? I’ve studied this area multiple times, and in Illinois, a school’s poverty level and percentage of minority students are highly intercorrelated in terms of explaining test scores. The tests also can be viewed as a measure of poverty. But is someone going to try to say that poverty does not impact student learning? The abandonment of test scores will not fix the poverty problem, nor the lack of preparation for college.

    Replies

    • Dr. Bill Conrad 2 months ago2 months ago

      Can we think different here, Steve? We need to stop blaming the victims for failure to acquire standards or perform well on student tests. We need to change the current Blame the Victim Zeitgeist of K-12 education. Children are resilient and will respond well to high quality curricula, instruction, and assessments. The children are generally ok. The adults are screwed up. It is time that we begin blaming the adults for the problems in student achievement. I know … Read More

      Can we think different here, Steve?

      We need to stop blaming the victims for failure to acquire standards or perform well on student tests.

      We need to change the current Blame the Victim Zeitgeist of K-12 education.

      Children are resilient and will respond well to high quality curricula, instruction, and assessments. The children are generally ok. The adults are screwed up.

      It is time that we begin blaming the adults for the problems in student achievement. I know that is heresy in the hubristic K-12 education system.

      Students of color and economically disadvantaged students get the novice teachers, the charity worker TFA teachers, the least resources and technology. Local school boards and administrators hold the line on white entitlement. Nobody wants to talk about that. We will continue to live off special case and hero teachers rather than address the fundamental but unspoken racism within the system.

      Time to look in the mirror.

  3. Dr. Bill Conrad 2 months ago2 months ago

    Can I get a little bit of assessment literacy here? Assessments should be designed for a specific purpose. The Smarter Balanced Assessment was not designed as an Admissions' Test. It represents malpractice to use this exam as an Admissions' test. There are not enough items aligned to specific learning targets to make summative assessment decisions about the ability of an individual student to be successful in college. The Smarter Balanced Assessment was designed to make valid and … Read More

    Can I get a little bit of assessment literacy here?

    Assessments should be designed for a specific purpose. The Smarter Balanced Assessment was not designed as an Admissions’ Test. It represents malpractice to use this exam as an Admissions’ test.

    There are not enough items aligned to specific learning targets to make summative assessment decisions about the ability of an individual student to be successful in college.

    The Smarter Balanced Assessment was designed to make valid and reliable decisions at the state, county, district, and school levels. Not the individual student levels.

    Never mind though. The fog of education can easily accommodate this malpractice!

  4. Andy Stetkevich, Sr. 2 months ago2 months ago

    I love the idea of using Smarter Balanced exams for students who are in states that take them. This will hold school districts accountable for teaching all students. The racial disparity in scores has been an ongoing problem in education. This is the responsibility of our K-12 educational system. Using the Smarter Balanced exam creates an urgency for school districts to help all students achieve high standards. In addition, students who don't take the Smarter … Read More

    I love the idea of using Smarter Balanced exams for students who are in states that take them. This will hold school districts accountable for teaching all students. The racial disparity in scores has been an ongoing problem in education. This is the responsibility of our K-12 educational system.

    Using the Smarter Balanced exam creates an urgency for school districts to help all students achieve high standards. In addition, students who don’t take the Smarter Balanced test seriously may now decide to do so. The test should be used as just one of many performance indicators for college admission, but it is reflective of what students should be learning in our public schools.

  5. Chris Stampolis 2 months ago2 months ago

    Michael Burke, you need to write more deeply on this issue. I know that journalists do not like to be nudged or even pushed, but please tear apart the issue to figure out what's really going on. The CSU system overall already has more Latino/a students than enrolled white students per capita based on California's population. That is admirable and demonstrates the success of, especially, Latina girls, who are the largest segment … Read More

    Michael Burke, you need to write more deeply on this issue. I know that journalists do not like to be nudged or even pushed, but please tear apart the issue to figure out what’s really going on. The CSU system overall already has more Latino/a students than enrolled white students per capita based on California’s population. That is admirable and demonstrates the success of, especially, Latina girls, who are the largest segment of the CSU population across 23 campuses. Several UC campuses demonstrate above expected enrollment of Latino students. The real question here is about UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Davis and perhaps one or two other UC campuses.

    Bribing high school teachers to issue inflated grades is way easier than bribing SAT administrators. Less costly too. At these top schools the SAT and ACT bring up the number of Latino/a students, not decrease them. How easy will it be for rich 8th graders to begin working on college essays with highly-paid tutors for three years?

    The trend is towards brown student success as white students drop, drop, drop. SAT/ACT scores do not keep out Latino students from CSU and UC. Rather, those scores clearly lift up more Latino students who likely will lose spots at the highly-competitive UC campuses when the state switches only to grades and essays – the two easiest categories to buy.

  6. Erik Kengaard 2 months ago2 months ago

    The late, great Commonwealth of California.
    “70% of Asian students and 45% of white students meet or exceed standards, compared to 20% of Black and Latino students. It is unclear, according to the report, whether the Smarter Balanced test is any more equitable than the SAT and ACT. ”
    More “equitable?”