It’s been a tough year for the College Board and ACT. Colleges and universities have been dropping standardized tests (going test optional-some even test blind) as part of their 2021 and 2022 admissions criteria. The pandemic may be to blame for this, but the University of California system’s decision was based on a plan which has been in the works for years. President Janet Napolitano’s plan to phase out [1] use of the SAT and ACT over five years and to replace them with a new test to be developed by University of California faculty members.

At the end of May, UC’s Board of Regents got together and entered into a debate on the subject of saying goodbye to the SAT and ACT tests and hello to a more cohesive and inclusive test of their own design. The vote was 23-0 in favor of President Janet Napolitano’s 5-year phase-out and replace Plan. UC faculty will be responsible for developing the new test. The idea is to create a test which “makes available to students a properly designed and administered test that adds value to admissions decisions, enhances equity and access for more students, has a positive impact on student preparation, and does so in a manner that reduces the social and monetary burdens associated with the currently required ACT/SAT tests.”

Here are the major elements of The Plan:

For freshmen entering in 2021 and 2022, Napolitano proposes the UC system become test optional. (The system has already done this for 2021, citing COVID-19.) Students who opt to submit SAT or ACT scores will not have to submit the SATwriting test. For freshmen entering in 2023 and 2024, UC would be test blind, meaning that SAT and ACT scores would not be used in admissions decisions for California residents.

Out-of-state applicants could use the new test or the SAT/ACT. Historically, few colleges have gone test blind [2], but UC would only in part do so. That’s because UC applicants could continue to submit SAT and ACT scores during this period for use in awarding scholarships, and for the state guaranteed admissions provision that grants admission to those in the top eighth of California high schools.

For freshmen entering in 2025, a new admissions test would be created and used instead of the SAT and ACT. All California students would take the test to apply, and it would be made available to private schools and out-of-state schools to use.

If no new test is available by 2025, the state will go fully test blind and eliminate the role of standardized testing in admissions.

University of California president proposes dropping SAT/ACT

Submitted by Scott Jaschik on May 18, 2020

Caltech has enacted a two-year moratorium on both the requirement and consideration of SAT and ACT test scores as part of the undergraduate admissions process. This change, made in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its continuing impact on access to these exams for students across the country and globe, will be in effect for all first-year students applying to Caltech for Fall 2021 and Fall 2022.

Caltech’s Undergraduate Admissions Office has updated its first-year admissions requirements to emphasize the increased attention that will be paid to curriculum and academic preparedness in lieu of test results.

Caltech Announces Two-Year Moratorium on SAT and ACT Requirements

The following are excerpts from:

Learning is comprehensive, a product of curricular options, motivation to learn, curiosity about self and others, and a willingness to see the interconnectedness of information and experiences. Our assessment process blends an understanding of the academic opportunities and achievement with the personality traits that bring learning to life.

It’s one thing to choose to become test optional, but it’s an entirely separate project to figure out what the testing actually provided — what it corresponded to, or not, elsewhere in the process. Were there gaps in the process, even with testing, that absolutely need to be understood and addressed now without testing?

Whitney Soule, Dean of Admissions and Student Aid, Bowdoin College

What if future tests could look at critical thinking, problem solving or even logic games like the LSAT does? What if tests measured some form of grit that Angela Duckworth has discovered? It might be a way to identify the genius that exists in students that normally do poorly on standardized tests but have the potential to be great in the right environment.

Walter Kimbrough, President, Dillard University

What to do? The first thing is to accept that any metric will create unintended consequences and, if high stakes, establish perverse incentives. The second thing is to rely on holistic measures of student ability. College is for intellectual development; students must come to college prepared for high-level academic work. But no single test can substitute for the careful evaluation of students’ records, developed over time, in different contexts. If we insist on having tests, the tests should simply assess eligibility: Does a student have the reading, writing and numeracy skills to do first-year college work? There should be no score and no percentiles. Just a simple yes or no.

Johann Neem, Professor of History, Western Washington University

Efforts aimed at upending bias around race, class, gender and disability status will continue to fall short as long as there is an industry dedicated to training students for test taking that advantages the haves over the have-nots.The creation of a portfolio system of evaluation, with scorers trained to assess higher-order thinking, communication skills and the capacity for intellectual growth, is the most promising approach to addressing persistent equity gaps and the growing economic and racial segregation in higher education.

Lynn Pasquerella, President, Association of American Colleges and Universities

Integrating tools like these into the application process may allow admissions officers to get a better sense of a student’s ability to tackle complex issues, growth mind-set and adaptability — skills essential at and beyond university. And it’s an invitation to honor wisdom from multiple lenses and encourage the lateral thinking needed in the “new normal.” The college admissions process can never be stress-free, and this is an exciting opportunity for reimagining and innovating how we learn.

Belinda H. Y. Chiu, author of The Mindful College Applicant: Cultivating Emotional Intelligence for the Admissions Process


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