Rethinking standardised testing to end discrimination


In a shot heard around the United States, on May 21, 2020, the University of California’s Board of Regents suspended the requirement and use of standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT, for freshman applicants.  UC will be test optional for campus selection of freshman in fall 2021 and 2022, and “beginning with fall 2023 applicants and ending with fall 2024 applicants, campuses will not consider test scores for admissions selection at all, and will practice test-blind admissions selection.”

The Regents, along with some 1,200 other universities and colleges, had previously dropped the requirement for 2021 following the College Board’s and ACT’s cancelling of testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Regents have requested that the Academic Senate and the universities administration attempt to develop a new test or adopt the existing Smarter Balance test of high school students in time for the fall 2025 entering class that better aligns with college readiness.

But if they fail in this endeavor, UC will eliminate the standardized testing requirement for California students.

Opponents of the wide spread use of the SAT have long claimed that the SAT promotes needless socioeconomic stratification: the test favors students from upper income families and communities, in part because they can afford a growing range of expensive commercially available test preparation courses and counseling. But most significantly, grades in high school are a better predictor of academic success at UC than test scores.

The Regent’s 2020 decision echoes this view.

Yet as I chronicle in a new research paper published by my center at UC Berkeley, UC has a long history of concern with standardized testing. In fact, UC was relatively slow in adopting the SAT as a requirement in admissions when compared to other universities with selective admissions, public or private.

Informed by this history, I offer a few observations on the Regents May 2020 decision and its global implications for high-stakes testing.

Publication date: 
June 27, 2020
Publication type: 
CSHE Reports