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Letters to the Editor: How rejecting the SAT and ACT injects more bias into UC’s application process

A student looks at questions during a college test preparation class.

A student looks at questions during a college test preparation class.

(Associated Press)

To the editor: Here, to save the state of education and eradicate bias, comes the University of California system with its plan to reject the SAT and ACT and create its own test — or eschew testing completely if it can’t do that. What the SAT and ACT owners could not do in 100 years, the UC system will do in just under four, with limited time for historical data-gathering, and while balancing a budget crisis and a pandemic.

What a novel concept, development of a proprietary school-specific entrance exam. If this sounds familiar, it should: Until the early 1900s, schools had their own specific entrance exams. This was subsequently eliminated and seen as arcane and exclusive — how would a lower-income student apply to multiple schools?

Yet here we are once more, injecting an abstruse admissions process with additional sources of confusion and disparity. In under five years, students who want to apply to both UC and non-UC schools will be met with twice the prep, testing and opportunity for bias as before.

Good luck to the out-of-state students, the home-schooled, the scholarship-seekers and the STEM-major hopefuls — all who still likely need to take the SAT or ACT (unclear from UC’s disclosure). And all the best to UC admissions officers, who will sift through 170,000 applicants and try to determine academic strength in an environment of pronounced grade inflation.

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Matthew Larriva, Washington

The writer runs a test-prep company.

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To the editor: For many students, including my sons, a standardized test can provide an indication of their prowess in certain areas of study, even if their grade point average might not be high. An individual who is high-functioning on the autism spectrum, for example, might have a strong focus and success in subjects he or she finds interesting, while struggling even to complete work in classes they do not find valuable.

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It’s not laziness or incompetence; it’s just how the brain works.

After my older son’s college application experience, I created “The Neurodiversity Challenge,” which encourages schools to do a better job understanding the value that neurodiverse individuals offer their student bodies.

The term “holistic” in the admissions process is touted often by colleges and universities, including those that have made standardized tests optional. Yet ironically these institutions are actually reducing the so-called holistic approach, if ever it actually existed at some of the highly competitive schools.

By eliminating or reducing the importance of standardized test scores, colleges and universities are actually discriminating against certain applicants.

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Rob Hahn, St. Paul, Minn.


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