Sept. 2 (UPI) — A judge has blocked the University of California school system from using the SAT and ACT tests as part of its admissions process, stating its “test-optional” policy discriminates against those with disabilities who can’t access testing centers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In May, the University of California’s Board of Regents unanimously voted to immediately suspend the use of the exams until 2024 as it develops its own that it says will be better aligned with what it expects students to know before they start post-secondary education.
However, in its decision, the Board of Regents allowed for campuses to choose whether to eliminate the exams’ use in admissions or employ a “test-optional” policy through the 2022 calendar with UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Riverside among the six campuses that adopted the new testing option.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman placed an injunction against the so-called test-optional policy on Monday, ruling that it disadvantaged disabled students the “second look” that non-disabled students who were able to take the exams during the coronavirus pandemic were granted.
In his 17-page decision, Seligman wrote that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites and, while this affects all students, it essentially bars those with disabilities from participating in the test-option policy.
“Unlike their non-disabled peers, they do not have the option to submit test scores; even if they did, their chances of obtaining necessary test accommodation are virtually non-existent,” he wrote. “They get no second look or ‘plus factor’ that non-disabled students are afforded in the admissions process.”
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed in December by Public Counsel on behalf of a group of students, educators and advocates arguing the SAT and ACT tests discriminate against minority and low-income applicants. They argued that due to the test-preparation industry those two exams have created, poor yet deserving students were disadvantaged in the admission process, as they couldn’t access such test preparation services.
On Tuesday, Public Counsel called the decision “historic,” saying it puts an end to “racists tests” that have deprived minority, disabled and poorer students from gaining access to post-secondary education.
“It’s a low point for the regents that a lawsuit had to be the vehicle to eliminate meaningless tests that they had publicly acknowledged as ‘racist,’ serving no purpose other than to boost the chances for privileged students who could access expensive prep courses to be taught the ‘tricks’ to answering biased questions,” Mark Rosenbaum, director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law Project, said in a statement.
“There’s never been such a thing as a level playing field to admissions for our most underrepresented students, but this ruling at least evened that field a significant bit,” Rosenbaum said.