Groups’ lawyers demand UC drop SAT and ACT
LOS ANGELES — The University of California came under new pressure Tuesday to eliminate the SAT and ACT as an admission requirement, when several groups threatened a lawsuit alleging that the tests violate state civil rights laws by unlawfully discriminating against disabled, low-income and underrepresented minority students.
A letter delivered to UC regents by lawyers representing the Compton Unified School District, the Community Coalition and others demanded that the university “immediately stop this discriminatory practice” or face litigation. It marks the first step in what could be the nation’s first lawsuit seeking to end the use of the controversial tests, which have been dropped as admission requirements by more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the nation, including the University of Chicago and University of San Francisco.
UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said the university had no immediate response to the letter.
ACT and the College Board, which owns the SAT, argue that their tests are predictive of college performance and offer a uniform yardstick that allows colleges to compare students across a range of states and high schools. But critics say they are an unfair admission barrier to students who don’t test well or can’t afford to pay for pricey test preparation. Decades of research have shown that scores are strongly influenced by family income, parents’ education and race.
“Our objective is to remove barriers and equalize the playing field,” said Micah Ali, Compton school board president. “This is an issue of equity and access to opportunity for children who are living in marginalized and struggling communities.”
Any decision by UC to drop the SAT and ACT would play an enormous role in the future of standardized testing in America because of its size and status as the nation’s top public research university system. California is the largest market for the tests and six of UC’s 10 campuses, which collectively educate 222,500 undergraduates, receive the most applications in the nation.
“This case is profound and far-reaching in its implications,” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which has fought to end the tests for decades. “The whole world will be watching.”
The UC Academic Senate, which sets the system’s admission requirements, is studying whether to drop the test and plans to issue its recommendations to the regents by February. Doan said Tuesday UC officials would wait for that review, requested last year by President Janet Napolitano, before deciding on the next steps. Several regents have expressed impatience to get on with the debate. Board of Regents Chairman John A. Perez has cautioned against “analysis paralysis.”