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University of California Is Ordered to Disregard SAT, ACT in Admissions

On September 1, 2020, Alameda County’s Superior Court ruled that the University of California (UC) system must halt its use of the SAT and ACT as part of its admissions process. The court’s decision was made in response to a lawsuit filed by multiple students and organizations, which alleged that any consideration of the tests would give an unfair advantage to privileged students. 

Since statewide lockdowns began in March, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the college admissions testing process, with scheduled tests being cancelled for students across the country. According to Brad Seligman, the Alameda County judge that granted the injunction, mass testing cancellations limited testing opportunities for students with disabilities. 

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites,” Seligman wrote in his decision. “While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even to locate suitable test locations are ‘almost nil,’ ” he explained.  

Seligman added that, in his view, “Nondisabled, economically advantaged, and white test-takers have an inherent advantage in the testing process.” 

Seligman’s ruling also said that two pieces of legislation, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Disabled Persons Act, require that disabled students not be penalized in their college admission efforts because they aren’t able to take the test. 

Back in May, the University of California’s Board of Regents voted to “phase out” the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions by 2025, with a plan to develop a college admissions test of their own. In response to testing disruptions, the university system also became “test-optional” in the spring. As part of their “test-optional” change in admissions, UC schools dropped all requirements of SAT or ACT scores for this year’s pool of applicants. 

Some UC campuses, like UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, had already decided not to consider college entrance exam scores in the admissions process. Others, like UC Los Angeles and UC San Diego, had planned to allow students to choose if they wanted to submit their scores. The Alameda County Court’s ruling would only affect the group of UC schools that had not already chosen to become “test-blind.” 

While supporters of the test-blind policy argue that a test-optional admissions plan wouldn’t have gone far enough to even the admissions playing field, some students and parents believe that they’ve been negatively impacted by the change. 

Noah Raimi, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS) who was able to take the SAT in December of 2019, had mixed feelings about the UC’s consideration of college entrance exams. 

“The new policy is sort of annoying for me because my score was on the higher end for many schools, and I think it would’ve been helpful for my admissions prospects,” Raimi said. He explained that, “I don’t think it was completely necessary to go test-blind because anyone could have taken it last fall or winter … but I understand why the decision was made.” 

On September 9, 2020, the University of California filed an appeal to the Alameda Court’s injunction in an effort to block the “test-blind” change. As of September, however, the Alameda Court’s preliminary injunction is set to prevent the consideration of college entrance exam scores in this year’s application cycle. 

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