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University of California schools can no longer use the SAT and ACT test results to make decisions about admitting students because the school system’s “test optional” policy in some locations may unfairly benefit those experiencing COVID during COVID -19 pandemic can access a test, ruled a judge.
Alameda County Supreme Court Justice Brad Seligman said the “test optional” policy at some UC sites denies students who do not submit standardized test results a “second look” during the admissions process given to those who do submit the tests.
The UC system, one of the largest and most prestigious university systems in the country, had planned to cease using SAT and ACT and announced in May that it would suspend testing requirements for its applicants until 2024 in order to create its own standardized exam.
The system allowed an “optional testing guideline” in some locations that allowed students wishing to take the SAT and ACT to submit their results in hopes of increasing their chances of admission.
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Seligman said lawyers for the UC system had shown that students at the “test-optional” sites can only “help and never hurt an applicant” by submitting their results.
“In other words,” wrote Seligman, “the tests are treated as a plus point and thus test-takers are given a second opportunity to check admission.”
This “second look” wrongly harms students with disabilities who do not have access to SAT and ACT tests or fair housing, argued attorneys who try to avoid using standardized tests.
Seligman noted that students with disabilities have long struggled to access test shelters, and the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these barriers.
Although all students had access to tests disrupted by the pandemic, students with disabilities face greater obstacles, Seligman said.
They “do not have the ability to submit test results; even if they do, their chances of getting the required test accommodation are virtually nonexistent. They do not get a second look or” plus factor “that non-disabled students get on the Internet Approval process, “wrote Seligman.
Seligman issued an injunction in this case precluding consideration of SAT and ACT results for all student admissions.
Several UC schools, including Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Irvine, had already removed SAT and ACT scores from their admissions process. Others, including Riverside, San Diego, and Los Angeles, chose the “test optional” policy.
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Standardized tests have long been criticized by proponents who say that access to accommodation and preparation for the test unfairly benefits wealthy students and those without disabilities.
According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit education group, more than 60% of colleges and universities in the US do not require SAT and ACT test results as part of their fall 2021 admission process. Fifty-seven sites are “test blind,” which means that test results are not taken into account in admission decisions. Bob Schaeffer, the centre’s interim executive director, said those numbers could rise as the new admissions season begins, and noted that some schools that require tests do not consider them when considering applications.
In 2019, amid the college admission bribery scandal, renewed attention was drawn to the issue, with wealthy parents paying to clear the way for their children to be admitted to some of the best schools in the country, including through test scores and inflation fake disabilities.
One lawsuit against the UC system was filed by five individual students and six organizations. The group’s lawyers argued that access to standardized tests was discriminated against on the basis of race and class, but focused primarily on the issue of disability.
“Judge Seligman’s historic decision ends racial testing that deprived countless California students, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families of a fair chance of admission to the UC system,” said Mark Rosenbaum, director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Legal project said in a statement. Public Counsel attorneys represented the sued group.
“There has never been a level playing field for the admission of our most underrepresented students, but this decision at least balanced this field a little,” said Rosenbaum.
In a statement by spokeswoman Claire Doan, the University of California system said it “respectfully disagrees” with the verdict and would consider further legal action.
“An injunction may affect the university’s efforts to implement adequate and comprehensive admissions policies and its ability to attract and enroll students from different backgrounds and experiences,” the statement said.
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