No, let the UCs take the lead

By Garv Virginkar, Staff Writer

When I first heard the University of California system was getting rid of the SAT and ACT, I should have been excited — and at first, I was. As a sophomore, the thought of spending long hours preparing for the SAT fills me with dread. But now, I realize that getting rid of standardized tests so rapidly without any time to find alternatives was a terrible mistake. 

Standardized testing has been used as a way to compare university applicants across the country for over a hundred years in a fair way, at least in theory. This system of standardization has always had its benefits. 

The UC system recognizes the importance of standardized tests. They had planned to use the SAT until 2025 while they attempted to develop their own replacement standardized test. Standardized testing would only be phased out completely if the UC system didn’t have a replacement by 2025. 

Because the UC system has a diverse group of applicants every year, it has a greater need for standardization between its applicants. While California is home to some of the best school districts in the country, districts such as Los Angeles Unified, in which only 40% of students were proficient in math or English in last year, fall short. In such a diverse state, factors like course difficulty and tough teachers vary greatly between applicants, and standardized testing could provide a common metric to weigh applicants. 

However, an Alameda county judge recently ruled that the UC system can no longer use any form of standardized testing on grounds of discrimination. The case argued that, especially during the pandemic, students with disabilities and those of lower incomes are treated unfairly by the College Board and the ACT.

Even though the judge was presented with evidence from both sides, this decision did not receive the attention it deserved. With something as important as standardized testing, this is an unacceptable precedent to set — the decision should have been made by those directly involved in education, such as the UC system itself. 

Now, I’m not saying the SAT itself is great — far from it, in fact. The College Board is one of the most inefficient organizations in recent history, and is infamous for being scandal-prone and greedy. 

However, the flaws of the SAT and ACT should not be confused with the flaws of standardized testing as a whole. Eliminating standardized testing entirely was a mistake — especially in the case of the UC system, where some form of homogenization between its applicants is necessary. A UC-developed test would most likely have all the benefits of standardized testing while addressing the flaws of the SAT and ACT, mainly because many of the pitfalls of these tests is that they are proctored by organizations that function as private companies. Problems such as retakes being too expensive, grade deflation to force retakes and an easily teachable question pattern created to sell test prep books would all not occur when the UCs themselves are administering the test. 

Ruling that the UC system cannot use the SAT and ACT disrupted their original plan, which would have benefitted all future applicants. An uninformed third party making the decision to eliminate standardized testing for the UC system was ultimately detrimental to the very students it sought to help. 

While the SAT is inherently flawed, a one-eyed man can see more than a blind man. The SAT should have stayed until a new test was created, and the final decision should have been made by the UC system itself.