UC to continue with test-free admissions
New test will not replace SAT, ACT, Board of Regents decides
By Michael Burke
For the foreseeable future, standardized testing will not be a part of freshman admissions for the University of California.
That became clear Thursday during a meeting of the university’s Board of Regents, as top administrators essentially shut the door on the possibility of the university finding a new standardized test to replace the SAT and ACT, which are no longer part of the admissions process.
Earlier this year, UC President Michael Drake asked the university’s Academic Senate to consider whether to
allow students to submit their 11th grade Smarter Balanced exams, the state’s annual standardized tests, for admissions consideration. But the Senate has rejected that proposal, a decision that was endorsed by Drake’s office.
“UC will continue to practice test-free admissions now and into the future,” Provost Michael Brown said during Thursday’s meeting.
Earlier this year, a university committee also rejected the possibility of UC developing its own standardized exam.
Asked by a regent to clarify if Thursday’s discussion marks the end of the issue, Brown said, “It’s the end for now.”
Drake added that the university “does not have an assessment right now” that can effectively be used in admissions. He said that if another test happens to be developed and appears to be effective, the university “certainly could consider adopting such a thing in the future, but we’re not developing one and we don’t know of one that exists at this time.”
The university system, which has nine undergraduate campuses, committed last year to stop using the SAT and ACT, tests that critics have said are biased against low-income students, disabled students and Black and Latino students. The university also reached a court settlement this year that prevents UC from using those exams at any point in the future, even on an optional basis.
The university pondered whether to develop its own exam that could be used in admissions, but that idea was ruled out by a committee that determined that creating a new test would take too long. Instead, the university decided to explore whether using a modified version of the Smarter Balanced exams would be a sufficient replacement for the SAT and ACT.
In rejecting that proposal, the Academic Senate determined that the Smarter Balanced test scores “would add only modest, incremental value beyond high school GPA,” said Mary Gauvain, former chair of the Academic Senate, during Thursday’s meeting.
The Senate also determined that converting the Smarter Balanced exams from a low-stakes test to a high-stakes exam to be used in admissions would likely lead to the development of “test-preparation ventures that in the cases of the SAT/ACT have been shown to magnify score differences among demographic groups,” according to an agenda item for Thursday’s meeting.