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University faces legal threats from students of color who demand university stop using the SAT and ACT because their scores 'are a proxy for socioeconomic status and race'


A 'fair' education via threats?

Photo by John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Low-income minority students are threatening to sue the University of California if the school does not drop its admissions policy requiring students to take SAT or ACT tests.

The students — along with the Compton Unified School District and several advocacy groups — insisted they would pursue litigation because of the school's "unfair" and discriminatory policy on standardized testing.

What are the details?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, such tests "illegally discriminate against applicants who can't afford test prep classes and pose other unfair obstacles."

One of the students, 17-year-old Kawika Smith, said that he grew up in an impoverished environment, "often homeless," and "with family violence that left him with emotional stress." Because of his upbringing, Smith said that he couldn't afford test prep service or private tutoring, and did poorly on the school's required SAT or ACT entry exams. As a result, Smith was forced to attend an out-of-state college that didn't require such stringent admissions.

"My more affluent friends were able to afford private tutoring, that had costs ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 a month," said Kawika.

Lawyers representing Smith and others say that the school has "chosen to ignore ample evidence" indicating that "disparate SAT and ACT scores mirror and reinforce social and educational inequality." As such, the school, according to the legal team, excludes "high-performing, less advantaged students" from being able to take advantage of a better education.

The Chronicle reports that "[m]ore than 1,000 universities, roughly 40% of the nation's campuses, have dropped the requirement or made the tests optional in recent years."

What else?

In a letter obtained by the outlet, the legal team writes that the "SAT and ACT scores are but a proxy for socioeconomic status and race."

Additionally, the letter also pointed to research indicating that the tests "contain up to 10% of questions that are 'biased against underrepresented minority groups,'" and "have 'word-heavy math problems' that often stump math-gifted students with less-than-perfect English skills."

At the time of this writing, the school still requires prospective students to test on the SAT or the ACT.

A spokesperson for the College Board — which owns the SAT test — told the outlet that the test is not discriminatory.

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