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It would take University of California nine years to replace SAT and ACT in admissions: task force

Report contradicts claims that standardized tests play ‘major role’ in disparities

The test-optional movement in college admissions is running into a predictable barrier: reality.

A University of California faculty task force forecasts that it would take nine years to develop an alternative assessment to the SAT and ACT for admission into the sprawling university system, The Wall Street Journal reports.

There’s also no better predictor of first-year success than standardized test scores at the moment, the task force concluded:

In a report released Monday, the task force said it had “pragmatic concerns about how campuses would evaluate and compare applicants who submit standardized test scores relative to applicants who do not; whether and how campuses would impute, explicitly or implicitly, test scores to applicants; and ethical concerns about how to treat students in the two groups fairly.”

One of the less drastic recommendations for expanding the diversity of the incoming class is expanding automatic admission to anyone who scores at the top of their high school based on GPA. Currently that pathway sets the threshold at the top 9 percent of each school.

UC’s punt on the option slows the momentum built by more than 1,000 colleges that have gone test-optional, including the elite University of Chicago and the less elite George Washington University, Inside Higher Ed notes.

It also undercuts comments by UC-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ in favor of the entire system going test-optional, which followed a lawsuit alleging the standardized tests “mirror and reinforce social and educational inequality.” (Asian-American education activists warned that ditching standardized tests would not only discriminate against their children but worsen STEM education.)

MORE: Want to make STEM education worse? Ditch standardized tests

The report pulls the rug out from anti-test activists who claim it favors wealthy families:

“The task force did not find evidence that UC’s use of test scores played a major role in worsening the effects of disparities already present among applicants and did find evidence that UC’s admissions process helped to make up for the potential adverse effect of score differences between groups,” the report said. …

“For any SAT score, students from disadvantaged groups have a higher probability of being admitted than students from advantaged groups,” the report said. Campus admissions officers appear to be comparing a student’s test score not against the average for UC applicants, but against the average for similarly disadvantaged groups.

The task force reminded critics that the SAT was developed with the goal of reducing class privilege in admissions, by setting more objective evaluation criteria.

Eliminating standardized tests is not only likely to worsen graduation rates and GPA of graduates, but cost the state more and make it harder to identify “at-risk students,” it said.

Read the Journal and Inside Higher Ed reports.

MORECollege Board dumps ‘adversity score’ after adverse reaction

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.