More than a Test
By Isaac Aguirre
A student, Kawika Smith, is a plaintiff in the critical lawsuit against the UC system
In recent years, the weight of standardized testing in evaluating a student’s admission application has become an issue for the UC system. The College Board and other entities that profit from the SAT and ACT have made education a business success. The admission selection is not a blind find; since race and socioeconomic status contribute to testing scores for students statewide. In fact, this disparity has motivated lawyers, organizations, and students themselves to take legal action against the school system.
Uniquely, the plaintiffs have been advocating for equal education in their communities, prior to any legal action. In October of 2019, the plaintiffs demanded that Regents of the University of California eliminate the requirement of the SAT and the ACT for college admissions. The Regents of California is a “governing body” that oversees
secondary-education and approves policies geared toward equal education. The admission complaints culminated in a lawsuit filed against the Regents of California through the Alameda Superior Court in December. They would eventually file another lawsuit this year.
“Plaintiffs allege that basing college admissions decisions on SAT and ACT scores amounts to deciding students’ future based on their race and socioeconomic status and not on individual merit,” reports the Public Counsel, a law firm representing the plaintiffs. “They also point to disparities in access to effective test preparation classes and to bias in test design and test-taking conditions that discriminate against students on the basis of their wealth, race, and disability.” The lawsuit points out that low-income families cannot afford the test-prep services and tutors that their more affluent peers may have. Their legal action was critical for the other events that unfolded.
Most recently, the University of the California Board of Regents voted in May to suspend the use of standardized testing as a tool for admission selection until the Fall of 2024. Their vote was unanimous: the dynamics of standardized testing must change. Their decision was correspondent with the plaintiff’s lawsuit and a result of much-needed action to address the SAT and ACT’s future in higher education. “The suspension will allow the University to create a new test that better aligns with the content the University expects students to have mastered for college readiness,” explained the University of California’s Presidential Office. However, plans for a new test were halted by the Alameda Superior Court’s preliminary injunction- a court order made to neutralize a legal dispute temporarily-to remove the test requirements entirely.
In light of this recent ruling, the SAT and ACT will be eliminated from the University of California system for the next academic year and possibly for the foreseeable future. Judge Brad Seligman, of the Alameda Superior Court, ruled for these tests to be removed from UC college admissions. According to the Mercury News, “The judge, Brad Seligman, agreed and wrote that while COVID-19 has ‘disrupted the testing process for many students,’ the barriers facing students with disabilities ‘are indisputably significantly greater’ than those facing non-disabled students.”’ As for the plaintiffs, this court order is monumental and may as well change the status quo of higher education. California will be the state where equal education was granted or denied; upheld or withheld, and the decision will determine the course of opportunity for generations of students to come.