Groups’ lawyers de­mand UC drop SAT and ACT

Lodi News-Sentinel - - STATE - By Teresa Watan­abe

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.”

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