University of California agrees to nix SAT, ACT in admissions decisions in settlement with minority students

SAT, ACT are 'racist metrics,' lawyer alleges

The University of California agreed to no longer consider SAT or ACT scores when making admissions and scholarship decisions under a settlement finalized Friday in a 2019 lawsuit filed on behalf of low income students of color and students with disabilities. 

The 10-campus system, which has more than 280,000 students statewide, decided not to continue fighting a judge's injunction issued last fall that barred it from considering the scores for admission even when submitted voluntarily, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Students may still elect to submit SAT or ACT scores to satisfy the entry level writing requirement or for placement in courses. 

The lawsuit argued that low income students of color were at disadvantage because standardized test questions often contain inherent bias that more privileged children are better equipped to answer and wealthier students often take expensive prep course to boost scores that others cannot afford. It also argues the students with disabilities could not easier travel to exams and class sites.  

The settlement, reached earlier this month, "ensures that the university will not revert to its planned use of the SAT and ACT — which its own regents have admitted are racist metrics," Amanda Savage, an attorney representing the students, said in a statement obtained by the Chronicle. 

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The UC Board of Regents voted last year to drop the SAT and ACT tests as admission requirements through 2024 and eliminate them for California residents after that. Incoming students this fall didn't submit SAT or ACT scores. However, regents had said applicants for fall 2021 and 2022 could submit the scores voluntarily. The new settlement will "provide certainty for students and their families, counselors, and high schools," the school said.

College Board, which produced the SAT, rejected the notion that their standardized tests were inherently racist – though it did recognize inequities in the education system. 

"Real inequities exist in American education, and they are reflected in every measure of academic achievement, including the SAT," College Board’s executive director for communications, Zach Goldberg, said in a statement obtained by the New York Times. "The SAT itself is not a racist instrument. Every question is rigorously reviewed for evidence of bias and any question that could favor one group over another is discarded."

Under the agreement, SAT and ACT scores won't be considered for admission for students applying for entry between fall 2021 and spring 2025. However, the scores that are submitted voluntarily can be used for course placement after a student is admitted.

FairTest, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group that is generally opposed to standardized testing, announced last month that more than 1,400 accredited colleges and universities that grant bachelor's degrees won't require students applying for fall 2022 admission to submit test scores. That is more than 60% of the undergraduate institutions in the United States, the group said.

The University of California announced on Jan. 28 that the system received the highest number of undergraduate applications in its history for the fall 2021 admission, which included surges among African American and Chicano/Latino students. California Community College transfer applications also grew by an impressive margin, the university system said. 

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Campuses saw significant growth of freshman applications from African American students, with an increase of 1,505 applications or 21.8 percent, as well as Chicano/Latino students, with a jump of 5,250 or 12.2 percent, the university system said. 

"The makeup of this year’s applicants already show that students are no longer deterred from applying based on their inability to access standardized testing," Marci Lerner Miller, another attorney representing the students, said in a statement about the settlement. "We’re confident that this settlement will lead to students demonstrating their abilities, rather than their disabilities, in the application process." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.