California Schools Removing the ACT and SAT

Turning Students Into Cash Cows

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As each state is a lab for independent testing of new ideas, we can normally advocate for changes that states undertake to improve the system. However, when it comes to states being incubation labs for the country, California is most definitely a meth lab. On May 21st, 2020, the University of California Board of Regents voted unanimously to cease using the ACT/SAT testing system as admissions criteria for some of the nation’s most prestigious public schools. The chair of the Board of Regents, John Perez, told the LA Times, “This is an incredible step in the right direction.” The question we must ask ourselves is, “Why?”

While many mainstream news outlets are shouting UC removed the test without anything to replace it, that is a bit of panic mongering. For its part, the UC system is offering a phased roll out of removing the test, with hopes of replacing it with “homegrown” tests in the fall of 2025. Schools in the system will have the option of using ACT/SAT scores until 2025, after which testing requirements will be eliminated for UC students.

Because Racism?

The reason behind the change is the theory that standardized testing discriminates against minority students. Scoring of standardized tests have long been a target of universities, especially in California where an unofficial “quota” system has been in place since the Supreme Court stated quotas were illegal in the early 1990s. According to the College Board, all mean SAT scores measured by race are within one standard deviation of national mean.

The only exception to this would be scores of Asian Americans, whose scores are slightly above one standard deviation ABOVE average. This indicates that standardized testing does not create as great a disparity as the UC system would like us to believe. The truly perplexing question is “If standardized testing is discriminatory in the eyes of the UC system, why are they replacing one standardized test with another?”

The timing of this change is also questionable. It is widely accepted that the college enrollment rate for fall 2020 is going to go down; some groups state that this decrease may be as great as 25%. This means that colleges, specifically the liberal arts programs of colleges, are going to suffer financial shortfalls.

The data shows that students entering into liberal stronghold fields such as Gender Studies, Journalism, Cultural Ethics, and Human Science all had average scores of below 1550 on the test. Whereas fields such as Letters, STEM Fields, Linguistics, and Theology all had scores above 1550 (On Average). This mirrors the Market Watch Report from five years ago that notes Liberal Arts programs are on a steep decline around the globe.

Schools: An Extremely Tough Sell

Changing the nature of the test is a method to change the nature of the student. The UC system is one of the best public-school systems on the planet, but because of poor management it is on the decline. In the Post-Modernist age, California was king. But as the education market is returning to realism, ultra-liberal programs are having a hard time convincing students that it is worth $150,000 for a degree for which there are no job prospects. One way to change this is to change the target audience, and this seems to be what California is doing.

Those changing requirements are banking that students who do not know any better will enter into the system. One must imagine that schools will protect the reputation of their STEM, Business, Law and Medicine programs by continuing to only accept the best students into these programs. However, one can only imagine the landslide of acceptance letters that read, “We regret that you have not been accepted into your chosen field, but we are pleased to let you know you are accepted into the Liberal arts program.” This method will take advantage of first-generation students to get them into dying programs, keeping these archaic mechanisms floating for a few more years.

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While SAT/ACT tests have their own problems, they are the best we currently have. While California has the right to remove this requirement, accreditation agencies have the duty to review each and every one of California’s schools. The testing regime is imperfect, and California developing its own test should be commended. However, the idea of eliminating the test in the interim is dangerous. By admitting students who are “not qualified,” schools are turning kids into Cash Cows; and while more Cowbell may help them, it will certainly not help students.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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