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Rights Groups Threaten UC System with Lawsuit Over Standardized Tests

The use of standardized tests like SAT and ACT by the University of California system has become a contentious issue between the school and a coalition of civil rights groups.

On Tuesday, nearly nine organizations penned a joint letter to the school’s Board of Regents urging it to cease the use of SAT and ACT test scores in decisions related to admissions.

The letter alleges that standardized tests serve as a barrier to higher education for students of color and those with disabilities. The groups have given a 10-day ultimatum to reply and threatened to file a lawsuit if the school doesn’t comply with their demands.

“The use of these exams is an unlawful practice in violation of the California Constitution’s equal protection clause and numerous State anti-discrimination statutes, and it is barring our clients from equal access to higher education,” the letter reads.

“As the State’s foremost public institution of higher education, the University of California must, and should, furnish all students equal opportunity to access its benefits. Its continued use of the SAT and ACT—descendants of discriminatory IQ tests that pose unlawful barriers to underrepresented students—is fundamentally at odds with its obligation to provide access to all qualified students.”

A recent Georgetown University report found that standardized test only admission policy leads to a lesser diverse study body. Under such a policy, the share of white students at America’s top 200 colleges would rise from 66 percent to 75 percent, while the number of students of color would fall from 19 percent to 11 percent. Asian student enrollment would also drop from 11 percent to 10 percent.


It also noted that the test-only admissions would set 1250 as the minimum SAT score for admission at the country’s top 200 colleges, and would raise the median SAT score from 1250 to 1320, resulting in a decrease in the enrollment of black and Latino students.

“The SAT has built-in biases that ultimately derail the college aspirations of thousands of hardworking students of color who would thrive in college and make important contributions to the UC community and beyond,” said Lisa Holder, Of Counsel at the Equal Justice Society, one of the rights group.

“The test serves no purpose other than to act as a barrier to higher education for historically disadvantaged students. The UC Regents have a duty to end this discriminatory practice.”

In the recent years, more than 1,000 four-year colleges and universities have made the submission of SAT or ACT scores optional, including the University of New Hampshire, University of San Francisco, University of Chicago, American University, Ball State University, and Wake Forest University.

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