The University of California (UC) system must stop considering SAT or ACT scores in decisions on admissions and financial aid, a judge has ruled, citing pandemic-related difficulties faced by some students in accessing test sites.
The decision to mandate a so-called test-blind arrangement, issued Sept. 1 by Alameda Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman, is a victory for critics of admissions and scholarship-related testing amid the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus outbreak, which has made it more challenging for students with disabilities.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test-sites. While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even locate suitable test locations for the test is ‘almost nil,’” Seligman said in a 17-page decision (pdf).
The pandemic has led to constraints in the availability of testing locations, as illustrated by a recent announcement by the College Board, the New York City-based company that administers the SAT college admissions test. It stated in mid-August that 178,600 of 402,000 students who signed up to take the test on Aug. 29 will be unable to do so because nearly half of the test centers have closed due to the outbreak.
The UC school system waived standardized testing requirements months ago, moving to adopt a “test-optional” arrangement for the fall 2021 and fall 2022 admissions seasons, before going fully “test-blind” for fall 2023 and fall 2024. “Test-blind” means that campuses are prohibited from using SAT or ACT scores in deciding on admissions and scholarships, while “test-optional” gives them that option if students choose to submit them, a practice that the presiding judge found was unfair to students with disabilities.
“In short, students with disabilities are denied the same option and second chance for admissions that non-disabled applicants enjoy in the test-optional regime,” Seligman noted.
The Office of the UC President said in a statement it planned to abolish SAT/ACT testing by 2025 and would instead develop a new test that “aligns with the content UC expects students to have mastered to demonstrate college readiness for California freshmen.”
Seligman’s decision, while preliminary and subject to a potential legal challenge, effectively moves the prohibition forward.
“UC respectfully disagrees with the court’s ruling. An injunction may interfere with the university’s efforts to implement an appropriate and comprehensive admissions policies [sic] and its ability to attract and enroll students of diverse backgrounds and experiences. The university is evaluating whether further legal actions are called for,” according to a UC statement, as cited by Inside Higher Ed, an education-related publication.
“Some campuses have decided that they will not consider ACT or SAT scores in evaluating applications for fall 2021 applicants, while other campuses have decided to follow a phased approach or are in the process of making a final decision. 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.”