UC, in cru­cial move, drops ad­mis­sions exam man­date

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Ron Kroichick

The Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Board of Re­gents, in a land­mark move that could re­shape the col­lege ad­mis­sions process across the coun­try, voted Thurs­day to drop the SAT and ACT test­ing re­quire­ment.

The unan­i­mous de­ci­sion, af­ter hours of spir­ited de­bate in a tele­con­fer­ence meet­ing, adopted UC Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano’s pro­posal made last week. Napoli­tano rec­om­mended that UC make stan­dard­ized tests op­tional for two years, then be­come “test blind” for two years.

Stu­dents ap­ply­ing to UC schools in the fall of 2021 or 2022 will have the op­tion of sub­mit­ting test scores for ad­mis­sions. Those who choose not to pro­vide scores will not be pe­nal­ized.

Then, in 2023 and 2024, the sys­tem will not use scores as a fac­tor in ad­mis­sion de­ci­sions.

Stu­dents still could sub­mit scores for schol­ar­ship or course­place­ment pur­poses. In 2025, UC will ei­ther re­place the SAT and ACT with a new, UCspe­cific ad­mis­sions test or elim­i­nate the long­time test­ing re­quire­ments al­to­gether.

Thurs­day’s move punc­tu­ated years of con­tentious­ness sur­round­ing the is­sue of stan­dard­ized test­ing. Most no­tably, col­leges faced grow­ing pres­sure

from crit­ics who pointed to nu­mer­ous stud­ies sug­gest­ing stan­dard­ized tests dis­crim­i­nate against mi­nor­ity and low­in­come stu­dents.

Sev­eral re­gents cited those con­cerns in voic­ing their sup­port for phas­ing out the SAT and ACT at one of the na­tion’s big­gest and most vis­i­ble pub­lic univer­sity sys­tems. UC op­er­ates 10 cam­puses and serves about 285,000 stu­dents.

“We re­ally are the first body to tackle this head on and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” said Re­gent Eleni Kounalakis, the state’s lieu­tenant gov­er­nor. “It’s ex­cit­ing for Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tion.”

Nearly 1,200 schools na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing those in the UC sys­tem, pre­vi­ously dropped the stan­dard­ized test­ing re­quire­ment for 2021 be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. The pan­demic had forced the Col­lege Board (which op­er­ates the SAT) and ACT to can­cel tests this spring.

In a re­lated mat­ter, Alameda County Su­pe­rior Court Judge Brad Selig­man, in a rul­ing made pub­lic Tues­day, said UC can be sued for al­legedly dis­crim­i­nat­ing against low­in­come, mi­nor­ity and dis­abled ap­pli­cants by man­dat­ing the SAT and ACT as an ad­mis­sions re­quire­ment.

Napoli­tano re­peated her pref­er­ence to de­velop a new test to use in the ad­mis­sions process, but she was adamant about the short­com­ings of the Scholas­tic Ap­ti­tude Test and the Amer­i­can Col­lege Test­ing exam.

“The right test is bet­ter than no test,” Napoli­tano said, “but a flawed test should not con­tinue to be re­quired.”

UC Berke­ley Chan­cel­lor Carol Christ was among those speak­ing out against the stan­dard­ized test­ing re­quire­ment dur­ing Thurs­day’s meet­ing.

“I’ve been con­vinced of the re­search that shows the cor­re­la­tion with so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus,” Christ said. “I’m also dis­mayed by the anx­i­eties cre­ated by the test­ing cul­ture.”

Napoli­tano’s rec­om­men­da­tion, and the board’s ac­tion, did not en­tirely mesh with rec­om­men­da­tions of the Stan­dard­ized Test­ing Task Force, which re­leased a 228­page re­port in Fe­bru­ary. That re­port found UC’s cur­rent ad­mis­sions process does not dis­crim­i­nate and ac­tu­ally “pro­tects the ad­mis­sion el­i­gi­bil­ity of the very pop­u­la­tions about whom there is con­cern.”

The Aca­demic Se­nate, in ap­prov­ing the re­port, also sug­gested UC keep the tests for five years and then “re­visit whether the added value of the SAT/ACT still holds.”

Ad­vo­cates for stan­dard­ized tests ar­gued that drop­ping them could ex­ac­er­bate other is­sues — such as grade in­fla­tion and a vari­ance in high school cur­ricu­lum — in the ad­mis­sions process. The Col­lege Board struck this note in a state­ment re­leased af­ter Thurs­day’s vote.

“Re­gard­less of what hap­pens with such poli­cies, our mis­sion re­mains the same: to give all stu­dents, and es­pe­cially low­in­come and first­gen­er­a­tion stu­dents, op­por­tu­ni­ties to show their strength,” the state­ment read. “We must also ad­dress the dis­par­i­ties in course­work and class­rooms that the ev­i­dence shows most drive in­equity in Cal­i­for­nia."

The UC board re­jected by an 18­5 vote an amend­ment brought by Re­gent Jonathan Sures, who sought to limit

Thurs­day’s move to the first two years of Napoli­tano’s pro­posal. Sures wanted to re­view how chang­ing ad­mis­sions guide­lines to “test op­tional” af­fected di­ver­sity at UC cam­puses.

Af­ter the amend­ment failed, the board voted 23­0 to ap­prove Napoli­tano’s pro­posal.

Michael Ma­cor / The Chron­i­cle 2018

Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano’s rec­om­men­da­tion that the schools make stan­dard­ized tests op­tional for two years was ap­proved by the re­gents.

Brit­tany Mur­phy / The Chron­i­cle 2016

Sev­eral UC re­gents noted that crit­ics of the SAT and ACT ex­ams cite nu­mer­ous stud­ies sug­gest­ing stan­dard­ized tests dis­crim­i­nate against mi­nor­ity and low­in­come stu­dents.

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