UC campuses consider dropping standardized testing requirements

The University of California is now considering removing standardized tests from their list of admission requirements. The proposal comes in response to the tests’ alleged inaccurate measure of academic performance and perpetuation of inequalities in the education system.

With an increasingly competitive college admissions process, high school students are taught to look to the Scholarship Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT) for displaying their academic achievement. Nationwide, most colleges still uphold the belief that the three-hour long tests accurately show whether students can meet and excel standards. But there are approximately 1,000 colleges across the nation that are now test-optional. Opening up the possibility of joining this list, the UC chief academic officer, along with the chancellors of UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) and UC Berkeley, initiated the discussion of eliminating the standardized testing requirement for UC campuses.

“They really contribute to the inequities of our system,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ said at a Berkeley forum on college admissions.

Backed with research, UC officials believe that high scores on the SAT and ACT tend to be correlated to a high family income and influenced by the students’ parents’ education and race. In regards to alternative methods, UC Provost Michael Brown looks to other tests that could portray a student’s performance in courses that are specifically required for UC admission. The closest example is Smarter Balanced, which is California’s method of assessing high school juniors on Common Core curriculum. Meanwhile, UCSC Chancellor Cynthia K. Larive says their campus uses a holistic approach to admissions that cannot be summed up with a single score. UC Davis also commented that students’ decision to take rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) courses and balance school with extracurricular activities actually carries more weight in admissions.

This uplifts students in poverty who can never have the same resources as other students, while encouraging all students to invest time in learning about subjects they are passionate about.”

— Connor Lynaugh

“A decision by the two systems to drop the tests would have an outsize influence on the future of standardized testing because they represent a huge share of customers for the nonprofit testing companies,” LA Times reporter Teresa Watanabe wrote.

Eliminating the standardized testing requirement could alleviate some of the toll on students and their families, as many currently struggle emotionally and financially through the college process. And from the perspective of teachers, the Northwest Evaluation Association found that 70 percent of teachers “feel that the focus on high-stakes testing takes too much time away from learning.”

Even in the status quo, standardized tests may not actually weigh as much as students think. AVID and English Literature teacher Jeff Spanier explained to his class of seniors that when he reviewed college applications for UC San Diego (UCSD), he was told to only make the ACT and SAT scores about eight to 10 percent of his decision.

Sophomore Connor Lynaugh, a Speech and Debate competitor, explores the same issue in his speech called “A Cheated System,” where he advocates for legislation that would make standardized tests optional, which means students can be accepted without having taken the SAT or ACT.

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“This uplifts students in poverty who can never have the same resources as other students, while encouraging all students to invest time in learning about subjects they are passionate about,” Lynaugh said in his speech. “If you have the money, there are thousands of workshops, programs and tutors out there to help you get a perfect score on a standardized test. But for the 18 percent of children in America who are living in poverty, the same opportunities do not exist.”

For the class of 2020, UC campuses will be considering standardized tests, as it is a part of the 14 factors that UCs use to carry out a comprehensive review process. Meanwhile, some campuses, including UCLA, will be waiting to see what the Academic Senate’s analysis contains before taking a stance. Although some campuses have started the discussion, there are 26 voting regents who will decide the official elimination of the SAT and ACT from UC requirements.