A.S. Senate Votes to Make SAT/ACT Reporting Optional for Future Admissions

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Minh Hua
Campus Beat Reporter

Associated Students Senate passed a resolution last Wednesday in support of making the report of standardized test scores such as the SAT and the ACT optional in the UC application process. Senators for the resolution discussed how the SAT is biased against underprivileged groups while senators against the resolution praised the SAT as a measure for university prestige.

The resolution, authored by On-Campus Senator Lea Toubian and Off-Campus Senator Christian Ornelas, is a joint effort from the office of the External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) and the University of California Office of the President, according to Toubian.

Additionally, Toubian clarified that this resolution is in support of making both the SAT and ACT optional rather than outright abolishing standardized testing. Students who did exceptionally well on the either test can still include their scores in their UC application, while those who elect to not take the tests can submit alternatives such as a portfolio.

The resolution claims that “neither the SAT nor the ACT are accurate measures of intelligence or abilities needed to succeed in college.” Much conflict surrounds the accuracy of standardized tests in predicting undergraduate performance.

High school grades will continue to forecast students’ graduation chances more accurately [than the SAT],” said Valerie Strauss, an education reporter for The Washington Post, in her article criticizing the ineffective changes to the 2016 SAT. Such changes included making the maximum score 1600 points instead of 2400, removing the guessing penalty, and overall restructuring the test.

In fact, Strauss claims, “The exam will still under-predict the performance of females, students whose home language is not English, and older applicants.” Strauss attributes the SAT as an accurate predictor of family income, rather than intelligence, due to the non-egalitarian nature of test preparation academies.

The resolution further states that standardized testing marginalizes disadvantaged populations because “underprivileged groups and low-income families cannot afford resources such as preparation classes or practice preparation books.”

However, some A.S. senators are concerned that the decreased emphasis on standardized testing may dull the competitive of edge of the university setting.

“It is very clear that money does help with boosting SAT/ACT scores. That being said, I don’t think we should eliminate the SAT or the ACT because colleges are competitive places and there must be some type of measurement,” said Proxy Dhishal Jayasinghe for College of Engineering Senator Alex Funk.

David Z. Hambrick, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University wrote in The New York Times that research has found that SAT performance is a good predictor of overall college GPA.

Consequently, Hambrick references a study that states that among young adolescents, individual differences in general cognitive ability level lead to differences in educational, occupational, and creative outcomes in their futures. Consequently, the SAT works in its intended purpose of being a measure of general intelligence, according to Hambrick.

On the other hand, having conversed with the Chair of Admissions on this matter, Off-Campus Senator Rafael Cornejo stated, “By focusing on the SAT/ACT, you are limiting the student’s potential in acquiring a higher education and doing great things post-college.”

“Admissions look at a student’s potential, as in what they’ve done in the past, extracurriculars they’re involved with and how that would fit into UCSB. By supporting this resolution, you’re supporting the admission process that’s already in place,” said Cornejo.

Others have brought up the issue that the resolution misses the mark in addressing the marginalization of disadvantaged communities.

Off-Campus Senator Ashley Ng stated, “I agree that the SAT/ACT requirement is a disadvantage for students who do not have the opportunity to attend prep courses. However, I think it is a problem with our education system and not a problem with admissions.”

In light of the discussion, senators came up with potential alternatives to the resolution’s proposal. For example, On-Campus Senator Yash Nagpal suggested indexing the standardized test scores based on socioeconomic status.

Another concern regarding the resolution is that without standardized testing requirements, UCSB could lose its prestige and its place in the top five public universities. But Senator Ornelas reminded A.S. Senate that UCLA and UC Berkeley, two schools more prestigious than UCSB, have already passed resolutions similar to the one in question.

In fact, the resolution states that “more than 1,000 accredited colleges throughout the US, including Cornell, NYU, and the University of Chicago” have already either abolished the standardized testing requirement or have made it optional.

After 45 minutes of  discussion, Senate passed the resolution in support of making the SAT/ACT scores reporting optional with a 16-3-2 vote.

“I think it’s really important to say to students: ‘If you’re not comfortable taking the SAT, we’re making it optional for you.’ We’re standing for the rights of students and I urge everyone of you here to think of yourself in the shoes of students who come from underrepresented high school who don’t have the resources to take this test,” said Briseno.