Quit accepting SAT and ACT test scores, court tells UC

The University of California, which has stopped requiring applicants to take the SAT or the ACT, cannot allow prospective students to submit their scores on the standardized tests, a state appeals court said Thursday in a victory for students with disabilities.

In response to a lawsuit by low-income, minority and disabled students, the UC regents voted in May to drop both tests as admissions requirements. The students had contended the tests were unfair to applicants who could not afford preparation classes and tutors, and to those whose first language was not English.

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But the regents allowed individual campuses to let students submit SAT and ACT scores voluntarily in applications for 2021 and 2022, after which the university would no longer accept the scores. Regents chairman John Pérez said good scores could help applicants without penalizing those who did not submit them.

Disability advocates protested that the voluntary submissions still tipped the scales against disabled students, who generally lacked access to the tests. In August, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman issued an injunction prohibiting even voluntary use of the exams during current conditions.

“Nondisabled, economically advantaged, and white test-takers have an inherent advantage in the testing process,” Seligman said. He said disabled students with the same qualifications as other applicants “are denied a potential second chance at admission” when test scores are taken into account.

The university appealed, saying a ban on voluntary consideration of the tests would harm diverse groups of students.

Court intervention has “a direct effect on a wide range of students, including students from disadvantaged groups, who have prepared for and taken the SAT or ACT,” UC lawyers said. They said the university’s incoming freshman class is “the most diverse in its history.”

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco issued a temporary stay on Sept. 22, putting Seligman’s order on hold while it considered the arguments. But the court lifted the stay on Thursday and barred UC campuses from accepting or considering SAT or ACT scores.

The court rejected the university’s claims that the order was unduly disruptive, as six of the nine UC campuses — Berkeley, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz — have already agreed not to accept the test scores this year.

The court also quoted then-UC President Janet Napolitano’s acknowledgment that the SAT and ACT “are not clearly linked to … the curriculum that shapes student readiness.” Presiding Justice James Humes signed the order for the unanimous three-member panel.

The ruling effectively bars consideration of the tests for admission for