FFor UCs, there is no easy substitute for standardized test scores

February 12, 2020 — by Jayne Zhou

In late October, the Compton Union School District served the UC system with a letter that demanded that they end evaluation of standardized test scores in the form of SAT and ACT or face litigation, according to LA times. The low-income school district cited a violation of civil rights on the basis that the standardized tests were discriminatory. 

It has long been known that the SAT and ACT and other standardized tests favor those who can afford outside tutoring and practice test books; I don’t know anyone who could disagree with that given the extensive measures some take to improve their scores. 

Even if we disregard the fee waivers for registration fees, the costs of preparing and grinding question for the test are simply infeasible for most families.

Many private colleges know this and no longer require the reporting of standardized test scores until after a student is accepted or they don’t want to see them at all, said PrepScholar. Official test score reports are expensive as well, so the implementation of this allowed students to demonstrate their abilities in other ways without breaking their wallets in the process (each school report is about $12 for both ACT and SAT).

While it may seem like the aforementioned lawsuit may seem logical given this background, it’s important to keep in mind that it is the UC system being sued. 

Although the standardized tests are inherently biased, there are no viable replacements that can be used by the UCs. While many private universities have started to shift toward testing-optional, that policy is a luxury that public schools cannot afford: The UC system simply doesn’t have the resources to conduct interviews or alternative metrics of student readiness. 

The sheer number of applicants that the UCs get every year is enough to prevent them from abolishing the measurement of standardized tests which is necessary for them in order to rank their applicants. The University of Chicago is one of the private institutions that are now test-optional. In 2018, they received 32,283 applicants. That’s a large number but not compared to the 221,000 applications that the UCs received in the same year. 

Being public, the UCs don’t have the resources to conduct student interviews to gauge a person’s personality, which several private schools can afford. On top of the necessity of ranking in order to ease the application process for the UCs, they cannot just make drastic changes to anything without undergoing an extensive process of government approval, since they are government run and funded. 

According to the Chronicle, the suit cites the issue as a “legal obligation” that must be abolished in order to not violate the students’ civil rights. However, they do not provide a feasible alternative to standardized testing. The UCs cannot be expected to just ditch a system that makes possible the evaluation of so many applicants. 

The march toward reducing the role of standardized tests in the college admissions process is occurring, and will most likely happen at the UCs, but, it is not something that a lawsuit can force them into overnight.