Matt's Past SAT/ACT News Update

Matt O'Connor

May 18, 2021

As part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by students and activist groups, The University of California has agreed to stop using the SAT and ACT in its admissions decisions for students entering UC between the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2025.

The San Francisco Chronicle has details of the settlement:


The University of California has agreed to no longer consider SAT or ACT scores in admissions and scholarship decisions, under a legal settlement with students announced Friday.

The agreement puts to rest the on-again-off-again question of whether UC could use the tests. And it ends a 2019 lawsuit from low-income students of color and students with disabilities who argued that they were at a disadvantage compared with applicants who could afford test prep services or travel easily to exam and class sites.

The UC regents voted in May 2020 to stop requiring both exams, and this fall’s entering freshmen are the first who did not submit SAT or ACT scores.

However, the regents said at the time that applicants for fall 2021 and 2022 could submit scores voluntarily, after which UC would stop accepting the scores.

But the students’ lawyers argued that consideration of scores submitted even voluntarily would still be unfair, especially for disabled students who lacked equal access to the tests.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge agreed, and in September issued an injunction barring even voluntary use of the tests.

“The university complied with this decision, but it strongly disagreed with the court’s decision and filed an appeal,” a UC spokesman said in a statement Friday.

UC had argued that even more students would be harmed by preventing them from submitting scores voluntarily.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld the Superior Court decision. But the ruling left open a door for UC to appeal again, and to try to revive using the tests for freshmen entering in 2022.

Instead, UC said it sought a settlement, which will “provide certainty for students and their families, counselors, and high schools.”

Until this year, UC considered admissions test scores among more than a dozen factors that make up its “comprehensive review” of applicants. It also used the scores, alongside high school GPA, to determine whether California applicants were among the top 9% of students at each high school that UC automatically admits each year if they satisfy basic UC requirements.

Neither of those uses are allowed under the settlement, which also requires UC to pay more than $1.2 million in legal fees to the students’ lawyers.

The New York Times coverage of the UC story is here:


The University of California will not take SAT and ACT scores into account in admissions or scholarship decisions for its system of 10 schools, which include some of the nation’s most sought-after campuses, in accordance with a settlement in a lawsuit brought by students.

The settlement announced on Friday signals the end of a lengthy legal debate over whether the University of California system should use the standardized tests, which students of color and those with disabilities have said put them at a disadvantage. Opponents of the tests called the settlement “historic,” and said that it would broaden access to campuses for students across the state.

Some 225,000 undergraduate students attend University of California schools, and the settlement this week makes the system the largest and best-known American institution of higher education to distance itself from the use of the two major standardized tests.

The settlement resolves a 2019 lawsuit brought by a coalition of students, advocacy groups and the Compton Unified School District, a largely Black and Hispanic district in Los Angeles County. The plaintiffs said that the college entrance tests are biased against poor and mainly Black and Hispanic students — and that by basing admissions decisions on those tests, the system illegally discriminates against applicants on the basis of their race, wealth and disability.

The newly announced settlement says that no University of California schools can consider SAT or ACT scores in determining admission offers for students applying for entry between fall 2021 and spring 2025. If scores are submitted by students, they will not be viewed by those looking over admissions applications, the settlement said.

Last year, the university system voted to phase out the SAT and ACT requirements for admission, amid the ongoing criticism. Like many colleges nationwide, University of California schools had already made the SAT and ACT optional for last year’s applicants who will begin school this fall, after testing dates were disrupted by the pandemic.

Erik Ofgang at Tech & Learning examines recent testing developments in his article, Standardized Tests Fail to Provide Evidence for Student Success:


“Test-driven education reform is a faith-based policy, it is not an evidence-based policy,” says Robert Schaeffer, executive director of FairTest: the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Jack Schneider, professor at UMass Lowell, spearheaded a letter to Cardona signed by 548 scholars and academic researchers urging the Education Department to reconsider its mandate to administer federally mandated standardized tests this spring. The testing “will exacerbate inequality and will produce flawed data,” the letter said.

“What the research tells us about standardized testing is that there's a strong relationship between demographic variables like student race, family income, parental educational attainment, and students' standardized test scores,” says Schneider, who is also co-founder of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment. “School is not the primary influence on student academic achievement as measured by standardized test scores. Out-of-school factors play a greater role. And therefore the use of standardized tests to hold schools accountable doesn't make a tremendous amount of sense.”

Andrew Ho, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says evidence that federal standardized testing helps student achievement is “limited and theoretical.” However, he adds that it makes sense that we would want to monitor student proficiency in math and reading, and perhaps even things such as their mental health at the national level. “All of these things, we believe, may not improve as much if we aren't measuring them, but we don't have much evidence that says that measuring has helped,” says Ho.

“I see a place for testing if we had no stakes tests that told us where we need to deliver additional resources,” Schneider says. “Not only would we get more out of the tests, but we can also do less testing. Part of why we have to test every kid every year is because they're using these for high-stakes purposes. It's a part of the theory of change that posits that schools and educators are not working hard enough and what they need is to have their feet held to the fire. We've got 20 years of evidence that that isn't the case. Educators aren't hiding their best lesson plans and waiting for somebody to threaten them.”

He adds, “Research suggests that if you got rid of the stakes, you would see less gaming. So you wouldn't see schools teaching to the test, you wouldn't see teachers doing endless test prep, you wouldn't see schools cheating.”