University of California looks likely to drop SAT, ACT requirement

Leaders of the University of California system appear strongly inclined to drop the requirement that applicants to UC campuses take the SAT or ACT test, heeding the argument that it hurts the chances of Latino and African-American students to be admitted.

A faculty task force is expected to deliver a report on whether the mandate should be retained in February. But UC Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who is also the chancellor of the California Community College system, has already called for scrapping the standardized test requirement. So has UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Michael Brown, the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs for the UC system and its 10 campuses. No one who works for UC appears to be standing up, at least publicly, for the testing mandate.

The SAT/ACT test has for decades been criticized for alleged cultural bias against minorities. But that claim is strongly disputed by the College Board, which administers the test and says it has long since fine-tuned the language of questions in the test so that they don’t presume knowledge of white cultural norms. Some academic studies back up this claim of neutrality and find that SATs are a better indicator of college success than grades.

But one of the SAT critiques offered by Ortiz, the regent, is mostly undisputed. It’s that low-income Latino and African-American families are unable to pay for the vast variety of test-preparation classes used by middle-income and wealthy families to help their children. “Perhaps the tests were well-intended, but they are perpetuating a wealth advantage and undervaluing low-income students,” he wrote earlier this year.

The Princeton Review test-prep company, for example, “guarantees” that its 30-hour, $1,599 class will lead to at least a 1400 score on the basic SAT. A 1400 is at the 95th percentile of the approximately 2 million SATs taken each year.

Meanwhile, upper-income families have long been willing to spend whatever it takes to help their children on standardized tests, in particular by hiring specialized English and math tutors who charge up to $450 an hour.

But the College Board pushes back on this front as well, saying it provides free test prep online that helps tens of thousands of students each year.

Nonprofit behind SAT defends UC admission practices

The New Jersey-based nonprofit is so worried that a UC decision to drop the SAT would be copied by many other U.S. universities – as a recent USA Today analysis predicts – that it is offering increasingly thorough defenses of how UC makes its admission decisions.

According to an EdSource report, Jessica Howell, vice president of research at the College Board, appeared at a symposium on the SAT two weeks ago in Berkeley in which she suggested that critics of the test exaggerated its importance to UC admission officers, who consider 14 factors in evaluating prospective students.

“Any effective standardized measure that is one of those factors is going to reveal underlying inequities in our society,” she said. “As researchers, we shouldn’t stop using them, or measuring them because we don’t like what they say. … [Instead,] we should continue to have a discussion about solutions to close the gaps that we see.”

The comment reflects the College Board’s argument that if SAT critics think it’s unfair that students from wealthy families with more resources do better than students from poor families, it’s not the test that’s unfair. It’s American life – the rich can help their kids more than other families.

To address this issue, the College Board proposed also giving SAT test takers an “adversity score” in May so colleges could quickly determine if a student came from difficult circumstances. But the plan was dropped in August after if faced harsh criticism that it was a facile attempt to label students from wildly different backgrounds with a simple number.


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  1. Standing Fast
    Standing Fast 2 December, 2019, 13:49

    Well, if they do scrap the SAT/ACT requirement, guess what–there will be no incentive for any kids to study hard to score high or even just pass. This will hurt disadvantaged kids whoever they are, and keep them down at the bottom forever. Then what will the point of going to college be? Simply to get a degree so you can get a job and be a bog flop your whole life. Now there are some kids that just plain love learning–and these kids will do well whether they go to college or not. Also, I think it is insulting to minorities to get rid of standards for their sake. As if they aren’t capable of making the grade if they try. Doesn’t anybody remember the movie “Stand and Deliver”?

    Reply this comment
  2. Queeg
    Queeg 2 December, 2019, 21:21


    What can be said?

    Reply this comment
  3. Dawn Urbanek
    Dawn Urbanek 3 December, 2019, 04:11

    The Office of the President of the University of California along with UCI and UCLA helped College Board with their “Adversity Score” Pilot. No need to worry about to many privileged white and native American students getting into a UC- the number of white and native American incoming freshman students from private schools has been cut by 50% since 2007-08. They have been replaced by TAG students – Community College Transfer students with a 2.4 GPA and through that initiative Undocumented students receive subsidized Tuition- room, board and a job while CA’s hardest working students get an admit to UC Merced (99.1% turn that down) and then they are forced to gain admittance to an appropriate school like a UC Berkeley or a UCLA by going out-of-State or to a Private University. The Conduct of the UC has been so unconscionable that President Janet Napolitano has stepped down and the UC Auditor has stated that CA resident students should be entitled to recompense.

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  4. deweaver
    deweaver 3 December, 2019, 07:37

    Being from the wrong side of the track while being a bit of an ass according to my teachers, my LA high school (Dorsey) told me to be a mechanic and wouldn’t let me take the test for the accelerated science classes. However, I did test well and ended up with a Ph.D. in the sciences in the UC system. Even if the teachers don’t like you, testing allows talent to rise.

    The system they want seems to do away with the concept of meritocracy and give arbitrary power to educational bureaucrats which are products of non-rigorous social sciences and humanities, which have not intellectually progressed over the last century. All the areas of life where the STEM majors made contributions have progressed and eliminated massive poverty, making the world a safer and better place even in the face of massive population increase. The “progressive” non-stem academics have given us Marxism, Maoism, Pot Pol in Cambodia killing fields along with non-reproducible “science” and advocacy science.

    The infection of these “progressive” bureaucrats in academia has spread to hiring faculty in the STEM area with their focus on how “woke” (DEI statements) engineering facility are not whether they actually understand the subject. “Successful candidates for our faculty positions will demonstrate evidence of a commitment to equity and inclusion.”

    To actually teach technical subjects hopefully they will hire non-tenured Lectures who know the subject they are teaching and are cheaper while giving the tenure track positions to PC “woke” applicants with the correct diversity.

    China will achieve its stated objective of technological dominance if we choose students and facility based upon PC criteria and not merit.

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    • Dawn Urbanek
      Dawn Urbanek 3 December, 2019, 07:49

      So well said. Almost every UC campus is 50% is from Asia and the middle east with 61% of those students coming from a single country- the Peoples Republic of China. Is that Diversity?

      Reply this comment
  5. oregon farmer
    oregon farmer 3 December, 2019, 08:32

    Amazing! Watching the once-vaunted UC system slipping beneath the waves, fires raging out of control; while the Maoists at the helm scan the horizon for the next victim group, the very next extreme auto-da-fe of racial reparation. The Left, encountering NO opposition, accelerates ever faster until they achieve their Stalin/Mao strongman and dead society. Or their heads explode.

    Reply this comment
  6. Queeg
    Queeg 3 December, 2019, 20:32


    Californians are Doughboy soft….so ya offer an educational product for the seething disadvantage proletariat masses. Trophies all around, double doctorates ala Journalism/ Comparative Diversity…..

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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