UC Schools Announces New Stance on SAT/ACT – Will Now Be Test-Blind

Matt Larriva
May 16, 2021
Home » Blog » UC Schools Announces New Stance on SAT/ACT – Will Now Be Test-Blind

In a neck-breaking back-and-forth, the UC system has changed its stance on the SAT and ACT for the fifth time in 13 months. The UC schools will now be test-blind effective immediately.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re applying to the UC system, you do not need to take the SAT or ACT, and, if you do take it, it will not be considered in admissions or scholarship decisions by the school.

What will the schools look at instead?

Our view is that the weight that used to go to the SAT and ACT scores will be distributed among grades, extracurricular activities, personal statements, and teacher recommendations. 

We see a few potential problems with that, namely grade inflation making some GPAs dubious and the disparity in access to different extracurricular activities, but we hope it will lead to a more fair environment. 

How did we get here?

If it seems like only last year the UC was touting the efficacy and appropriateness of the tests–it was. Remember the UC-commissioned, UC-faculty-led report delivered in January of 2020 saying that the tests were necessary for fulsome admissions decisions? Neither do they, it seems.

Here’s how the UC system fell down a slope from test-required to test-blind in under two years:

July of 2018 – UC President Requests Review of Testing Princples

UC President Napolitano wrote to Academic Senate Chair Shane White, requesting that the Academic Senate “examine the current use of standardized testing 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 that the University continues to use standardized tests in the appropriate way.

January 2019 – Standardized Testing Task Force is Formed

The Academic Council’s Standardized Testing Task Force (STTF) was formed, and began meeting regularly to research the issue. The committee was formed of some 18 professors from all the UC schools, in fields ranging from education to law to public health.

January of 2020 – UC Task Force Concludes Research

A committee of UC faculty concludes a year-long, research-based deep dive into the appropriateness of considering the SAT and ACT in admissions decisions.

The curx:The Task Force does not at this time recommend that UC make standardized tests optional for applicants.”

They noted:

“Any change would require doing something that UC does not yet know how to do and could conceivably result in greater inequities and worse student outcomes, particularly if changes were mandated immediately and without adequate consultation with admissions officers on the various campuses.”

– UC Academic Senate

April 2020 – UC Becomes Testing Optional

The UC system makes testing optional–not because it doesn’t see value in the tests, but because many students are unable to take them due to the pandemic.

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May 2020 – UC Regents Vote to Drop SAT/ACT Testing

The UC regents vote unanimously to drop the SAT and ACT completely starting in 2025, to be testing optional until then, and then to replace the SAT and ACT with their own, fairer test. 

September 2020 – UC Sued by Advocacy Group

The UC system was sued by an advocacy group representing disabled students who claimed that the lack of testing centers with accommodations for their disabilities made it unfair that anyone was allowed to take the SAT and ACT. A judge ruled that the UC system was not allowed to consider the SAT or ACT at all. 

September 2020 – UC Appeals To Court Ruling

The UC system appealed the ruling saying, “The logical consequence of the court’s decision is that the University may not consider any indicator that is not equally available to all applicants,” the university said in a statement Friday.

UC officials said, in using the court’s reasoning of barring test scores, that same reasoning could logically be used when weighing a prospective student’s unnamed, “various talents” and abilities during the review process of applications.

“This would be problematic because under the court’s reasoning, many students with various talents — including many with disabilities — would lose the ability to put their best self forward in the application process. And UC would lose the opportunity to create a diverse educational environment that includes such talented students if they achieved in areas not equally accessible to students with disabilities.”

– UC Officials

September 2020 – Appeals Court Temporarily Stays Ruling

The appeals court sides with the UC system, and temporarily stays the ruling of the lower court allowing them to use tests once more. The ruling was set to be reviewed at a later date.

May 2021 – UC Reaches Settlement on Separate Lawsuite & Becomes Test Blind

The UC system reaches a settlement (on a lawsuit filed in 2019, not the one referenced above), and decides to become test blind.

  • In April of 2020, the schools went test-optional because of the pandemic.
  • In May 2020 they decided to become permanently test-optional and to replace the SAT and ACT with a test of their own in 2025
  • In September of 2020 the system was sued, saying that the lack of testing centers for disabled students meant no one should be allowed to submit scores; the UC system appealed and was granted a temporary stay later that month, allowing them to consider test scores again.
  • And last Friday (Mau 14th, 2021), they reached a settlement and capitulated to a full test-blind policy. Read the full settlement here.

What happened in the four months between January of 2020, when the UC decided test-optional and test-elimination policies could result in greater inequality, and May, when they unanimously voted those policies in?

There’s less transparency there, but one can guess.

What Are the Implications for Other Schools?

Traditionally California has been an early adopter of policies which then made their way through the rest of the education system. If that trend continues, then other schools could see a decrease in SAT and ACT usage as well. 

However, the UC system was still discussing creating its own test, which they hoped would be more equitable. If they can accomplish this, then the education industry could become fragmented, with each school proposing its own standardized admissions test.

For now, no other schools have come out in support or solidarity with this policy, so the testing-optional policy brought on by  the pandemic is still intact for most schools. 

But how “optional” is testing?

We refer you to this article from Market Watch which cites that 75% of those admitted to Ivy League school, UPenn, submitted test scores; that number was 93% for those admitted to Georgetown.

In all cases, we’ll stay up to speed and keep you posted on all the latest information.

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