Matt's Past SAT/ACT News Update

Matt O'Connor

Sep 11, 2020

A judge in Alameda County, California has issued an order that the University of California immediately suspend its use of the SAT/ACT in all admissions and scholarship considerations. The LA Times has the story:


The University of California must immediately suspend all use of SAT and ACT test scores for admission and scholarship decisions under a preliminary injunction issued by an Alameda County Superior Court judge.

The ruling came in a lawsuit asserting that the use of standardized test scores is broadly biased — and particularly detrimental to students with disabilities who seek to take the test during the coronavirus crisis.

Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman said in his Monday ruling that plaintiffs had shown sufficient cause to stop the tests for now because applicants with disabilities had virtually no access to test-taking sites or legally required accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The barriers faced by students with disabilities have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 epidemic, which has disrupted test-taking locations, closed schools and limited access to school counselors,” Seligman wrote.

Seligman added that little data existed to show whether the tests were even valid or reliable indicators of their future college performance. He set a case management conference for Sept. 29.
The injunction on the use of SAT and ACT results will affect all California applicants to the UC system.
In a statement Tuesday, UC said it “respectfully disagrees” with the court decision and was evaluating whether it would pursue further legal actions.

“An injunction may interfere with the university’s efforts to implement an appropriate and comprehensive admissions policies and its ability to attract and enroll students of diverse backgrounds and experiences,” the statement said.

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed also weighs in on the judge's preliminary injunction:


A California judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction barring University of California campuses from considering SAT or ACT scores in admissions or financial aid decisions.

While the ruling is not permanent, the judge indicated that the plaintiffs bringing the suit -- a coalition of organizations serving low-income and minority Californians -- are likely to prevail.

The ruling is the latest development in the battle over standardized tests in admissions, and it appears to represent a significant victory for critics of testing. That is because the ruling came after the University of California Board of Regents voted, in May, to approve a five-year plan to phase out the use of the SAT and ACT. In the first two years of that plan, the university system was to be test optional, meaning applicants could continue to submit scores, but they didn't have to. Now the university system must be test blind, meaning that no student can submit a test score.

"While they decry the asserted, racially discriminatory and classist impact of the tests, their primary argument is that the current 'test optional' policy at most of the UC campuses denies … applicants with disabilities meaningful access to the additional admissions opportunity that test-submitters will enjoy, in large part because they will not have taken these tests and will not be able to take them with appropriate accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic," wrote Judge Brad Seligman.

Seligman said this argument justifies the injunction, particularly now when people have a tough time registering for the tests, let alone registering for the tests with accommodations for having disabilities.

He rejected the university's argument that no one has to take the test anymore. UC campuses that are test optional can admit students who submit good test scores. This is an inherent benefit to those students that other students do not receive, Seligman said.

The National Association for Admission Counselling (NACAC) has issued a report that exhibits increased skepticism about the current use of standardized tests in the admissions policies of American colleges and Universities. The report can be accessed here.

[Excerpts from the report follow:]

The task force observed that if standardized testing perpetuates or worsens inequities, and if it is to remain a part of the undergraduate admission process at all, it must receive the most stringent of reviews. College admission counseling professionals must examine their policies and practices to offer tangible solutions that can help bring about needed change. This report suggests steps that institutions can take related to standardized admission testing. These steps cannot alone
resolve issues of access and equity in admission, but deserve careful consideration.

Among these are:

• Considering the impact of every requirement that institutions place on students in the admission process.
• Committing to regular predictive validity research of standardized testing and to publicly sharing results.
• Reexamining the infrastructure used for standardized testing.
• Considering the impact of score policies on the student experience, which may incentivize students to take standardized tests more than once.
• Clearly articulating to whom testing policies apply and, if not to all applicants, the rationale for excluding certain populations.
• Sharing outcomes data, disaggregated by key demographic variables (e.g., race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status,
financial aid, and high school type).

Call to Action: Call on rankings organizations to remove certain inputs, specifically class rank and standardized testing metrics, from rankings methodologies in favor of factors that measure student outcomes, satisfaction, and engagement.

Call to Action: Determine how strongly rankings and other “reputational” considerations factor into your institution’s decision-making process regarding testing.

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed offers additional insight into the recently-released NACAC report:


Many colleges have gone test optional in admissions this year -- some because they view tests as unnecessary and some because of the difficulties of taking a test during the COVID-19 pandemic. An overwhelming majority of colleges will not require the SAT or the ACT for admission in the coming academic year.

Today, the National Association for College Admission Counseling issued a new report that reflects those changes. The report does not state definitively that colleges shouldn't require a test, but it says that the assumptions of colleges when they adopted testing requirements may no longer be true.

“Time has changed much about the founding purposes and assumptions behind these [standardized] exams,” says the report. “Indeed, the very notions of finding ‘diamonds in the rough’ and even the ‘common yardstick’ are culturally suspect. Are not all students capable of success if given equal opportunity?”

The report was originally designed to explore "the mismatch between the increasing role international students play in institutions’ enrollment planning and the level of service these students receive in test administration," amid many complaints from college counselors outside the United States about the frequent cancellations of the SAT and ACT abroad, for security reasons. But the coronavirus pandemic led NACAC to expand the report to cover students in the U.S. as well.

“After we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, we cannot simply ‘go back to normal,’” the report says. “The tenuous grasp we hold on many of our habits and policies has been further loosened and we must adapt if we are to continue to fulfill our duty to the public good.”

The report says that colleges that may have needed tests at one point no longer do.

"Postsecondary institutions have effectively entrusted the College Board and ACT with the authority of serving as a third-party certifier of students’ qualification for admission. As the population interested in admission to college has rapidly expanded and diversified, however, testing agencies have not been able to ensure that the access to and availability of test administrations, the quality of the testing experience, and the integrity and validity of test scores are preserved consistently," the report says.

"Moreover, 'test prep' -- at first scorned by the testing agencies and now embraced -- has burgeoned into a billion-dollar industry, creating added equity challenges and calling into question the reliability of test scores as true measures of student abilities."

As covered in the Orlando Sentinel, pressure is growing in Florida to remove the SAT/ACT requirement for students applying to any of the 12 universities in the Florida university system.


Florida now stands nearly alone in its refusal to drop the requirement that high school seniors submit an ACT or SAT score as part of their state university applications.

Most other states have adopted test-optional policies for their universities this year because the coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of many ACT and SAT test sessions. That has limited the ability of high school students to sit for the exams.

Florida and Wyoming are the only two that have not, according to FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

Across Florida, counselors, parents and students continue to push the state to change its rules for the current admissions cycle. Admissions directors at Florida’s public universities want state action soon, as applications are open and high school seniors have begun applying.

“Without that temporary relief, there are going to be a lot of students that are not going to gain admission because they can’t meet the requirements,” said Gordon Chavis, the associate vice president of enrollment services at the University of Central Florida.

Chavis cited data from the College Board, which makes the SAT, showing 1.1 million fewer students nationwide have taken the SAT to date compared with this time last year. That includes roughly 44,000 fewer in Florida, where the SAT is the more popular college admissions exam.
Suspending the requirement would require action from the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. This past spring, board members briefly considered altering the admissions criteria for students applying in 2021 but did not make any changes. The board is scheduled to meet Wednesday but does not plan to take up the issue.

Despite the tremendous growth in the number of test optional colleges in recent years, and the acceleration of such policies due to the current health crisis, many students are still set on taking the SAT and ACT. EdSource covers the issue here:


Many high school seniors are scrambling to schedule SAT and ACT tests this fall even though most private and public colleges, including both of California’s massive state university systems, say they are not required during the pandemic.

Some students and their parents still worry that not taking the standardized entrance exams — or not getting a chance to increase previous scores — will hurt their college application process.

While many dates to take the SAT or ACT in the past few months have been canceled due to the pandemic, those students still hope to take the exams this fall on testing dates that do not get eliminated by health restrictions. Counselors, however, are urging them to calm down.

“What I’m gathering is that we have created such a testing culture among the kids. To tell them all of a sudden that the tests don’t matter, it’s a hard one for them to swallow even though it’s a reality,” said Josh Godinez, a counselor at Centennial High School in Riverside County and the president of the California Association of School Counselors.

Even before the Covid-19 crisis hastened that trend, an increasing number of colleges had joined a movement to drop testing requirements. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), an organization that opposes the use of standardized testing in college admissions, reports that 1,460 schools, more than 60% of four-year colleges and universities in the country, will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission.

Actress Lori Loughlin has been sentenced to 2 months in prison for her part in the college admissions scandal that broke in March of 2019. The New York Times has the story:


By Hollywood standards, the downfall had already been steep. After being implicated in the nation’s largest college admissions prosecution, Lori Loughlin resigned from her exclusive country club, downsized from her expansive Bel Air estate, and saw her acting career crater. Then, on Friday, Ms. Loughlin was sentenced to prison.

As a federal judge ordered Ms. Loughlin to serve two months behind bars for her role in the admissions scandal, he expressed astonishment that someone who had what he called “a fairy-tale life” would corrupt the college admissions system out of a desire for even more status and prestige.

Ms. Loughlin, who has acknowledged conspiring to pass her daughters off as rowers so they would be admitted to the University of Southern California, tearfully apologized. She said she had believed that she was acting out of love for her children but that she now realized she had only undermined them, as well as contributed to inequities in society.

Ms. Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, had both pleaded guilty to fraud. Prosecutors have said that they paid $500,000 as part of the scheme, although on Friday one of the couple’s lawyers suggested that the money was Mr. Giannulli’s alone. Prosecutors said Mr. Giannulli took a more active role in the fraud than Ms. Loughlin did, and the judge sentenced Mr. Giannulli on Friday to five months in prison.

“In some ways, the bad news about the Varsity Blues scandal was that it was so extreme, it enabled people to think it was ‘them’ — and not us,” said Richard Weissbourd, a senior lecturer on education at Harvard who leads a national effort to reform college admissions as part of the Making Caring Common Project. Mr. Weissbourd said he had hoped the case would prompt a deeper self-examination by schools, in which “it would all be on the table — athletes, donors, legacy, the whole thing.”

More than 50 people were charged in the case, which involved cheating on admissions tests and bribes to college coaches to falsely designate students as athletic recruits. More than 40 people have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty, including William Singer, the college admissions consultant who worked with almost all of the families in the case.

Southern Illinois University–Carbondale incorrectly reported the SAT scores of its incoming freshman class to US News, and will therefore not be ranked by the organization in its Best Colleges rankings in the following year.


According to Southern Illinois University–Carbondale – Profile, Rankings and Data | US News Best Colleges, SIU is not ranked because of misreported SAT scores.

“The school originally reported that its fall 2018 entering class average score on the SAT evidence-based reading and writing portions was 646 and that the average score on SAT math was 638,” US News said.

SIU later corrected this mistake and said entering class average was actually 564 for SAT reading and writing portions and 555 for the math portion.

SIU Spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith, said this was an honest, human error that SIU quickly reported before last year’s rankings were published.

According to US News, “SAT and ACT test scores have a weight of 7.75% in the Best Colleges ranking methodology.”

Less than 0.1% of schools that are ranked inform US News that their data was misreported.