Faster Than I Thought

Faster Than I Thought

Last week I wrote about how I’m quite sure that standardized tests will disappear from the admissions process in U.S. Universities but that the pace of the change is an unknown. My bet was within the next 5-10 years.

Looks like it might be happening even faster than I thought.

Last Wednesday, the University of California was threatened with a law suit by the Compton School District, as well as a number of individual students. The potential suit is going to be filed on the basis that the SATs and ACTs discriminate against poorer, non-white, and disabled students. More radical than what I was expecting, the plaintiff group are suing to end all testing requirements, not just make them optional. This could be the end goal, or it may be a strategic move to allow for the University system to create a middle ground by making optional test requirements.

In the warning letter, the counsel for the plaintiff group writes, “Use of the SAT/ACT is not merely bad policy; it violates the California Constitution and anti-discrimination statutes, and is therefore legally and morally impermissible.” This type of language is just setting up this or similar cases to reach a higher court, so still it make take years for the suit to work its way through the legal system.

(Side note here: the letter doesn’t advocate for the removal of Advanced Placement exams, which I find a bit puzzling. If the point is that standardized tests are discriminatory, surely AP exams fall under the same scrutiny, no? I’m a bit mystified by this one.)

The University of California is already under discussion whether or not to remove standardized tests from their admissions process, a review initiative that started back in 2018. The Governor of California has also expressed open disagreement with standardized tests.

Viewing this situation, as last week, from a game theory perspective: what will other schools do? If state school systems have similar predicaments and the threat of expensive and time-consuming suits, will any of them stand up to similar threats? Or will they fold under the pressure of potential suit?

We’ll see what position the nation’s largest university system takes, knowing that this week they will be lobbied hard by both the ACT and the College Board to keep the tests. What the UC System does is a good indicator for the rest of the country’s state schools and potentially private universities. This standardized testing case, set on the backdrop of last year’s “Varsity Blues” scandal, surely must have the ears of sympathetic judges.

Let’s watch this space! It’s a fascinating debate and to watch it unfold will be telling about the future work we do at LearningLeaders and beyond! It may even change the way our children learn in school and are taught altogether.