In May, the Board of Regents of the University of California voted unanimously to jettison the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and ACT over the next five years for use in judging admissions, with some members saying that the test itself was racist and therefore detrimental for minorities.
Yet only a few weeks earlier, the entire faculty senate voted to retain the SAT as a result of a study commissioned by UC system president Janet Napolitano that found that the SAT and the ACT increased minority enrollment across the UC system.
“The 228-page report, loaded with hundreds of displays of data from the UC’s various admissions departments, found that the SAT and a commonly used alternative test, ACT — also eliminated – actually helped increase black, Hispanic, and Native American enrollment at the system’s 10 campuses. The report recommended that their use be continued,” Richard Bernstein of RealClearInvestigations reported.
The report stated, “The Task Force found that of the 22,613 students guaranteed admission through the statewide index (the admissions pathway in which test scores can compensate for lower HSGPA) but not through Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC), which only considers high school grades, about 25% were members of underrepresented minority groups, and 47% were low-income or first generation students. These students would not have been guaranteed admission on the basis of their grades alone.”
One regent of the UC system, Jonathan Sures, who is co-president of the United Talent Agency, said of the SAT, “I believe the test is a racist test. There’s no two ways about it.”
But Professor of Education Eddie Comeaux at UC-Riverside, who served as co-chair of the faculty task force, stated, “many of us thought that the process might be a political one. There were several very prominent figures whose public statements made pretty clear their opposition to tests even before the task force started its undertaking. The regents’ vote was kind of preordained. There wasn’t even much debate at the regent’s meeting.”
Professor of Education Kip Tellez at UC-Santa Cruz, another drafter of the task force report, echoed, “We know their minds were already made up because they said so publicly.”
Another drafter of the report, associate professor and neuroscientist at UC San Francisco Andrea Hasenstaub, had said in May, “UC doesn’t cut anybody any slack on his grades. Students with lower grades are just not let in. This appears to be where URMs are getting cut out in the admissions process … Test scores don’t just help predict freshman grades. They also help to predict retention, graduation rates and final GPA, and this is true of students subdivided by income, race and family educational history.”
A fourth drafter of the report, Haim Weizman, a chemistry professor at UC-San Diego, said, “It’s just a smoke screen. The regents didn’t want to make a new test. They wanted to make a statement.”
The unanimous vote to discard the SAT in May ratified a proposal from UC President Janet Napolitano, who had issued a 2018 letter in which she stated:
This seems like a good opportunity to review the role of admissions in UC eligibility and admissions, something I understand the Board on Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) does periodically but may not have done since 2010.
I request, therefore, that the Academic Senate, through BOARS, examine the academic use of standardized tests for UC admission; review the testing principles developed in 2002 and revised in 2010; and determine whether any changes in admission testing policies or practices are necessary to ensure the university continues to use standardized tests in an appropriate way.
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