Lawsuit Challenges Use of SAT And ACT for California Admissions

For about the past 50 years or so, before you were able to go to college, you had to take a standardized test.  Yes, usually with a sharpened No. 2 pencil.  Yeah, you remember.  

But a new lawsuit is now challenging the University of California system’s use of the SAT or ACT as a requirement for college admission. The suit (filed by Public Counsel on behalf of students and some advocacy groups) argues that the tests — long used to measure aptitude for college — are deeply biased and provide no meaningful information about a student’s ability to succeed, and therefore their requirement is unconstitutional.

“The evidence that we’re basing the lawsuit on is not in dispute,” says attorney Mark Rosenbaum of the pro bono firm Public Counsel. “What the SAT and ACT are doing are exacerbating inequities in the public school system and keeping out deserving students every admissions cycle.”

The University of California system has long debated dropping the tests, and some university leaders have expressed their support. At an event in November, Carol Christ, the chancellor of UC Berkeley, said, “I’m very much in favor of doing away with the SAT or ACT as a requirement for application to the University of California.” UC Berkeley was quick to clarify that comment didn’t signal a policy change.

UC spokesperson Claire Doan says a special faculty task force is currently investigating the use of standardized testing in admissions, and the university system is “waiting for the assessment and recommendations from the … Task Force before determining whether any steps should be taken on this important issue.”

The university has been evaluating the requirement through a policy lens, but the lawsuit argues it’s a legal issue: “This policy illegally discriminates against applicants on the basis of race and wealth, and thereby denies them equal protection under the California Constitution.”

The hope is the lawsuit will fuel a larger conversation around college admissions.

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