Matt's Past SAT/ACT News Update

Matt O'Connor

Jun 29, 2023

The US Supreme Court has issued a ruling that rejects the current practice of considering race in college admissions decisions. The Wall Street Journal covers the story:


The Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to consider race in university admissions, eliminating the principal tool the nation’s most selective schools have used to diversify their campuses.

Thursday’s 6-3 decision will force a reworking of admissions criteria throughout American higher education, where for decades the pursuit of diversity has been an article of faith.

The ruling’s ramifications will likely extend beyond universities to recast the role of racial preferences in America. Leaders of American business and public institutions warned in friend-of-the-court briefs that a ruling against affirmative action would deprive the nation of leaders who reflect the population’s racial diversity.

University officials have insisted no substitute for racial preferences exists that can ensure that a representative share of minority applicants—particularly Black students—gains admission to selective institutions.

No longer able to give such applicants an automatic boost, admissions offices now must decide where racial diversity ranks among priorities that can include academic performance, achievement in extracurricular activities such as athletics, and preferences for alumni and donors.

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite,” he wrote.

The court’s three liberals dissented. Society “is not, and has never been, colorblind,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. “The Court ignores the dangerous consequences of an America where its leadership does not reflect the diversity of the People.”

Lee Bollinger, Columbia University’s president, expects five years of chaos before higher education fully adjusts to the new legal landscape, as committees and task forces—already in place at many schools—explore ways to employ income levels, socioeconomic factors and other race-neutral factors to maintain diversity.

Although long expected, the decision still was a shock to academia. “Nobody really believes it’s going to happen, even though all the evidence is right in front of you,” Bollinger said in an interview this month.

Before the court were admissions practices at two pillars of American higher education: Harvard College, the Ivy League titan whose name has symbolized achievement and power for centuries, and the University of North Carolina, a public flagship which, like other land-grant institutions, provides an elite education subsidized by taxpayers for state residents. Both schools said that, consistent with decades of Supreme Court precedent, a minority applicant’s race could serve as an unenumerated plus factor that raised chances of admission.

Lower courts agreed, rejecting lawsuits organized by Edward Blum, a former stockbroker who has brought a number of cases against laws and policies that make distinctions based on race or ethnicity in areas such as voting and education.

“The polarizing, stigmatizing and unfair jurisprudence that allowed colleges and universities to use a student’s race and ethnicity as a factor to admit or reject them has been overruled,” Blum said after the ruling. “These discriminatory admission practices undermined the integrity of our country’s civil rights laws.”

The 14th Amendment ensures that individuals receive equal protection of the laws from state agencies including public universities, a standard that also applies to most private colleges that receive federal funding. In general, the court has permitted racial preferences only to remedy specific acts of illegal discrimination, not compensate for general social injustices said to stem from historical practices.

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed offers additional insight into the Supreme Court decision:


The U.S. Supreme Court declared Thursday that the admissions systems used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill illegally violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful endpoints. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today,” said the decision, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise,” the decision added. “But despite the dissent’s assertion to the contrary, universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today.”

In her dissent, [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor said, “Today, this court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress. It holds that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions to achieve such critical benefits. In so holding, the court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.”

Edward Blum, the founder and president of Students for Fair Admissions, which brought the suits, said in a statement, “The opinion issued today by the United States Supreme Court marks the beginning of the restoration of the colorblind legal covenant that binds together our multi-racial, multi-ethnic nation. The polarizing, stigmatizing and unfair jurisprudence that allowed colleges and universities to use a student’s race and ethnicity as a factor to admit or reject them has been overruled. These discriminatory admission practices undermined the integrity of our country’s civil rights laws.”

He added, “Ending racial preferences in college admissions is an outcome that the vast majority of all races and ethnicities will celebrate. A university doesn’t have real diversity when it simply assembles students who look different but come from similar backgrounds and act, talk, and think alike.”

Many colleges expressed disappointment with the decision.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz of UNC Chapel Hill said, “Carolina remains firmly committed to bringing together talented students with different perspectives and life experiences and continues to make an affordable, high-quality education accessible to the people of North Carolina and beyond. While not the outcome we hoped for, we will carefully review the Supreme Court’s decision and take any steps necessary to comply with the law.”

Scott Jaschik also covers the recent comments by criticizing the continued requirement for the submission of SAT/ACT scores for scholarship consideration at many US colleges and universities:


Twenty-five percent of merit scholarships still require students to take the SAT or ACT, according to a new report from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

Some prominent scholarships continue to require tests, which have become relatively rare as a requirement in higher education since the pandemic.

The report said many people appear to think they need to take a test to earn a scholarship.

“Inaccurate perceptions about the testing requirements of ‘merit’ aid have been encouraged by the manufacturers of the ACT and SAT, the National Merit Scholarship program, several prominent statewide test-based plans including Florida’s Bright Futures and Georgia’s Zell Miller scholarships, and the test prep industry,” said Akil Bello, the main author of the report and senior director of advocacy and advancement at FairTest. “As a result, students frequently misallocate time and effort toward test preparation to improve their chances of receiving merit scholarships. The claim that a sizable portion of ‘merit’ aid goes to ‘diamonds in the rough’ from historically under-represented groups is inconsistent with one hundred years of research about the tests’ racial, gender and social class biases.”

Although SAT/ACT testing has returned to normal with the waning of the pandemic, test sittings are still occasionally canceled due to concerns over test security, as recently happened in California:


The SAT is offered nationally seven times each year, in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December, usually on a Saturday.

Last week, Joel Lentzner's 16-year-old daughter was signed up to take the SAT at Palm Springs High School. The Indio father said the day before the test was supposed to take place, his daughter received an email stating that the test had been cancelled and their money was refunded.

A spokeswoman for Palm Springs Unified School District confirmed to News Channel 3 that the test coordinator, Palm Springs High School, also received an email from the College Board stating that it had "identified test takers who may not be taking the SAT for its intended purposes." The letter went on to explain that the College Board "deliberately canceled registrations and removed some test takers" from the roster, additionally instructing the test coordinator to not admit anyone into the test whose name was not on the roster, in accordance with its "Intended Use" policy.

Lentzner said he contacted the College Board, and a representative was unable to help him. Lentzner said the only explanation he received was that perhaps his daughter "was an adult," which she is not. He believes this is a glitch, and would like an explanation from the College Board on how he and his daughter can ensure it doesn't happen again. Until they are able to correct the problem, Lentzner said his daughter will be unable to take the SAT on the next test date.

Florida has moved closer to allowing an alternative test to the SAT/ACT to be considered by the state's public institutions of higher education.


Florida’s public universities will likely be adding one more standardized test to be used as an entrance exam, adding to the SAT and ACT tests that have been accepted for years.

A committee of the state Board of Governors, meeting Wednesday at the University of South Florida in Tampa, approved the Classic Learning Test as an option for all 12 schools in the State University System. The public will have two weeks to comment on the move before the full board takes a final vote later this summer on whether to adopt the test.

The action aligns with a new state law signed in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis that authorizes school districts to begin administering the Classic Learning Test and allows it to be used in determining eligibility for Florida’s Bright Futures college scholarship.

The test, founded in 2015, is used primarily by home-schooling families, as well as some 200 colleges and universities across the nation, many of them religiously affiliated. It is rooted in the classical education model, which focuses on the “centrality of the Western tradition.”

The test has about 120 questions and takes two hours to complete. It differentiates itself from the SAT and ACT by placing emphasis on “meaningful pieces of literature that have stood the test of time.”

The company’s website features quotes from Marcus Aurelius and St. Augustine. Practice tests feature passages from “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” Plato’s “Republic” and “The Federalist Papers,” among others.

The test emerged as an option earlier this year after DeSantis became embroiled in an ongoing feud with the College Board, the company that administers the SAT and operates the Advanced Placement high school curriculum.

Test optional extension announcements by selective colleges and universities continue, including Middlebury (where only 45% of applicants submitted scores in the last admissions cycle) and Notre Dame.