- Civil rights groups and a California local school district are threatening to sue the University of California System if it does not stop using the SAT and ACT as an admissions requirement, saying the tests discriminate against students based on income, race and disability.
- Lawyers representing three students, five nonprofits and the Compton Unified School District, a historically impoverished jurisdiction, wrote to the system's board of regents Tuesday, demanding it drop the tests.
- The threat of a lawsuit comes as more selective colleges drop standardized tests from their admissions requirements in response to pushback on the practice.
A potential move by the system to eliminate the SAT or ACT requirement would likely be significant and far-reaching. The system is one of the nation's largest and most influential public research systems, enrolling more than 222,400 undergraduate students.
California is the largest state market for college admissions exams, said Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), in a press release sent to Education Dive.
"The University of California is one of the world's most highly respected public higher education systems," Schaeffer said. "If U.C. ends its ACT/SAT testing requirements — as this action and the facts supporting it demand — many other institutions are likely to follow suit."
Lawyers for the groups threatening to sue argue that the tests violate numerous state civil liberties. The students are "well-qualified" to enter college, the lawyers wrote to the regents, but "have been subject to unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, disability, and wealth" as a result of the standardized testing requirement.
The system had no comment on Tuesday, said U of California System spokesperson Claire Doan.
Many four-year universities have already scaled back on the SAT and ACT as a condition for admission. More than 1,000 U.S. institutions are test-optional, according to FairTest. That number started to grow after the University of Chicago announced last year it would get rid of its requirement.
U of California's Academic Senate was already studying whether the ACT and SAT were appropriate metrics of academic performance. Its recommendations were expected in the 2019-20 academic year, however, the groups writing to the regents said the matter needed to be resolved immediately.
The lawyers ordered the system to end the requirements for potential applicants and for the board to discuss the issue at its meeting in mid-November.
"We don't need to wait for yet another study to prove that the SAT and ACT are meaningless and unjust," said Gregory Ellis, co-counsel on the case and a lawyer at the firm Scheper Kim & Harris, in the statement. "This is urgent. Right now, students are being asked to take a test that has no real value, but will determine their futures. These students have no time to lose."