UC Considers Dropping Standardized Tests

Nicolas Gorman, Web Editor

University of California (UC) leaders say they support dropping standardized tests like the ACT and SAT for admission purposes. UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ, along with the UC system’s chief academic officer, Provost Michael Brown cite growing concerns with these standardized tests like their inability to predict college performance effectively and research proving that race, class, and gender biases give white, affluent, and male test takers an unfair advantage. 

Studies show that ACT and SAT scores are directly related to the students family income. The higher the income, the higher the average scores were. In addition, research conducted by the ACT itself found that a fast paced, multiple choice format favors males over females because males are more likely to engage in “risky guessing” These tests have also been found to ineffectively predict college performance. 

In a study at Chicago State University, for graduates who scored average as high school students, the ACT explained only 3.6% of the differences in college GPA. In fact, for the graduating class of 1992, which had the highest average standardized test scores, yet did the worst academically at the university. 

In recognition of the test inequalities, the UC and California State University (CSU) systems are starting to reassess the use of these tests, and dozens of other US universities already moving away from them. Throughout the previous year, about 50 colleges and universities have made the tests optional, joining the 1,000 or so schools where the tests are already optional. 

The fairness of these tests continues to raise concern, as this sits in the wake of a college admission scandal where wealthy parents pay SAT and ACT proctors to receive a higher score. The UC and CSU are also experimenting with eliminating class rank from high schools. An October 2016 incident sparked outrage when a University of Pennsylavania admissions officer told school officials that a highly qualified high school graduate had been rejected because she was only ranked 15th out of 320 students. 

“They said, ‘If you didn’t rank her, she would’ve gotten in,’ ” said Superintendent of the district, speaking of the student who earned a 3.9 GPA. Now that school district may be joining a growing number of districts around the country, especially in California, in eliminating class rank in its high schools – a high-stakes strategy that educators hold could help some of their students get into the nation’s elite colleges, since those schools often overlook candidates who aren’t in the rarefied percentiles. 

Educators who favor dropping the system argue that in the best districts, where the students are highly competitive, the differences in grade-point average between the No. 1 and No. 20 or 25 students can be minuscule. Yet colleges might look unfavorably on that lower-ranked student. With these changes, The UC admission process may be less stressful and look at all their students as a person, instead of a number.