SAT and ACT dropped to 'level the playing field': Is CA state university system right?

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Fact Box

  • The California State university system, the largest four-year university system in the state, declared their decision to drop SAT and ACT exams from college admission requirements on March 23, 2022, with Chancellor Steve Relyea noting it will help “level the playing field and provide greater access to a high quality college degree for students of all backgrounds.” 
  • According to a CollegeBoard survey, 83% of students said they wanted the option to submit state testing scores to colleges for admissions.
  • On January 25, 2022, Priscilla Rodriguez, the vice president of College Readiness Assessments at the New York City-based College Board announced the SAT exam’s switch from paper to digital format as “the digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant.” 
  • In May 2020, the University of California (UC) system voted to drop SAT and ACT requirements through 2024 even though its 228-page report found that, “of the 22,613 students guaranteed admission through the statewide index [...] about 25% were members of underrepresented minority groups, and 47% were low-income or first generation students. These students would not have been guaranteed admission on the basis of their grades alone.”

Noah (No) 

California is wrong for dropping the SAT and ACT admissions requirement from state universities (CSU), following behind the University of California's move to do away with the tests in 2020. These tests are vital to the education of our youth, and it's clear that they do an incredible amount of good. SAT and ACT scores help low-income students afford school because these tests open doors for students seeking scholarship opportunities for more prestigious and expensive schools. These tests find and reward talent. 

The notion that SAT and ACT scores are racist is false. This idea claims that a collective trait determines success rather than an individual one. In reality, there is a class issue among these SAT/ACT test-takers that boils down to the education system. The funding of the state education system by property taxes and the zoning of school districts has hurt individuals who come from low-income backgrounds. NSC reports that students from low-poverty high schools were more than twice as likely to earn a degree within six years of high school graduation (53%) as their counterparts from high-poverty schools (21%). 

A strong example of this is students pursuing STEM degrees. Twice as many students from higher-income schools graduate with a STEM degree than students from lower-income schools at 16% and 8%, respectively. This change ultimately hurts minorities and low-income students by reducing the opportunities for exceptional performance and reducing incentives for more effort. This policy is based on false assumptions, it harms those it intends to help, and it doesn't solve the real underlying problem with the education system. California removed the indicator rather than solving the problem.

Tyler (Yes)

California's state university system's decision to drop SAT and ACT requirements is an admirable one and is one that colleges across the country should replicate. Standardized testing is unfair and quite inconsistent in its ways of determining overall intelligence.

Homeschooled students test higher than publicly educated students, showing there are discrepancies and inconsistencies in the preparation methods used to prepare them for these tests. There is surely an issue if people who aren't properly trained by our nation's public school systems produce better results than our teachers. 

Some teachers are incentivized to promote these standardized testing. If their students perform well on these tests, that can sometimes be a good reflection on them, which may cause them to emphasize standardized test preparation over everything else. Teachers report being asked by faculty to set aside time to 'teach toward the test.' Students should be able to gain and develop knowledge in a vast array of subjects, not just the ones that the government has deemed to be necessary for the past several decades.

Finally, the SAT and ACT are unfair because not all students have equal access to tutoring that caters to standardized testing scores. 26% of high school juniors have reported receiving SAT tutoring of some kind, with the vast majority of the sessions being within $50-100. Although standardized testing has been one of the most popular ways to test academic aptitude for some time now, it is clearly not the most effective. Schools should re-evaluate their criteria and eliminate the need for these tests.

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