College admission in the U.S. is more competitive than ever before. Over the past five years, all Ivy League schools have been admitting fewer students from their total applicant pools, despite the fact that there are more students submitting applications. With acceptance rates at top colleges and universities falling to record or near record lows, high school students and wealthy families like in the Varsity Blues scandal. College admissions cheating scandal. With this new charge of conspiracy to commit bribery, Lori Loughlin can get an additional five years behind bars. Are feeling more pressure to do whatever they can to get into elite schools. That’s because a college degree, especially from an elite school, has been shown to translate to better employment prospects and a higher income. As the stakes are getting higher to attain a bachelor’s degree, college admission has been under increased scrutiny. I don’t think it’s an achievement test. I think it shows an achievement gap. Now, the University of California is facing a lawsuit from a group of students, educators and advocates over its use of S.A.T. and A.C.T. in college admissions decisions. The result of this suit could heavily influence all college admission processes in the U.S., as the University of California is one of the biggest public university systems in the country. In a statement to CNBC, a spokesperson for the University of California wrote, “As part of our comprehensive review process, evaluators look beyond test scores and grades to evaluate applicants achievements in light of the opportunities available to them. The plaintiffs argue that S.A.T. and A.C.T. exams are discriminatory against underprivileged and underrepresented applicants because not all students have the economic means and resources to study for them. The UC Regents, which say there are problems with the S.A.T., this exam that at best measures how a student will do in the first year at the UC system. We find that unacceptable. However, proponents of the S.A.T. believe that standardized tests are important in predicting applicants ability to succeed in college and leveling the playing fields. Because testing agencies really do a lot to try and make sure tests are not biased and to focus on the test as the problem is to avoid the problem.So are the S.A.T. and the A.C.T. actually discriminatory? And why did they exist in the first place? My name is Kawika Smith, I’m 17 years old and I attend Reverend Day High School, which is located in South Los Angeles. The plaintiffs argue that standardized tests put underprivileged and minority students at a disadvantage by creating a lucrative test prep industry and repeatedly producing test questions that are biased against black and Hispanic students.The tests show that only 1% of black students and 2% of latinx students scored in the top bracket, compared to 12% of white students, which is to me, a shame. A number of the youth leaders that did everything that they needed to do. They did really well academically, but they didn’t have the means either at home or the support on their campuses to prepare for the S.A.T./A.C.T. The College Board told CNBC that the S.A.T. is achievement based and research based.College admissions tests like the S.A.T., the A.C.T. and other tests like Advanced Placement used to provide information to admissions officers to learn more about the people playing to their college.Two months after the suit was filed, University of California released a report from its Academic Council’s Standardized Testing Task Force recommending the UC system keep the S.A.T. and A.C.T. as an admission requirement. More and more, we’re seeing our students receive rejection letters even when their GPAs and their leadership, their extracurricular activities and what it comes down to is that their S.A.T. score was too low. Many colleges require standardized exams for admission to see whether the applicant has the potential to succeed academically and graduate on time. In May 2019, the College Board conducted a series of studies to show the validity of the S.A.T. for predicting first year grades and second year retention. The study says the higher your total score on the S.A.T., the higher your first year GPA. However, the plaintiffs in the suit argue that these studies only take two predictors of college success into account: S.A.T. scores and high school GPA. It didn’t control any factors relating to socio-economic status. The S.A.T. was first introduced in 1926 in an effort to standardize the college admissions process and increase access to higher education. The College Board, a private nonprofit organization in the United States, owns, develops and publishes the S.A.T. In 2017, it had roughly $1.068 billion of revenue. Its creator, Karl Brigham, based the test on previous IQ tests that measured intelligence and aptitude as suggested by its original name, the Scholastic Aptitude Test. As more Ivy League universities and private institutions started using the S.A.T., the Educational Testing Service, E.T.S was founded in 1947 to administer and develop the test. Then in 1959, the A.C.T. entered the testing market and became an alternative exam for applicants. So the idea here is to not advantage or disadvantage people by having different rules to different games, but rather provide something uniform where people can really be evaluated with respect to the same things. However, the notion that the S.A.T. was founded as a test of intelligence rather than mastery of high school subject matter is what ignites controversies regarding race and socioeconomic biases. In September 2015, Inside HigherEd reported that in each of the three sections of the S.A.T., the lowest average scores were among students from families who make less than $20,000 in family income. Meanwhile, the highest average scores were among those with more than $200,000 and family income. Taking standardized tests comes with costly fees and even higher prices to prepare for them. The basic registration fee for the S.A.T. is $49.50. It’s $65 if you take the test with the essay. The basic fee waiver that the College Board and other groups make available is a first step, but it doesn’t bite anywhere in nearly the whole iceberg of costs associated with admissions testing.Both College Board and A.C.T. offer their official test prep guides on their website.But most affluent families go beyond these test prep books to help their children study for these exams. Kaplan, the Princeton Review and Ivy Bound are just a few examples of test prep academies that offer online classes, in-person classes and private tutoring. According to MarketWatch. Students who work with a private tutor generally spend 20 to 30 hours, meaning wealthy parents are paying upwards of $10,000. It’s a great investment by middle class and wealthy families. According to IBISWorld, the test preparation franchises industry is expected to report a total revenue of $1.1 billion for 2019. Of that, no exam preparation services are anticipated to account for 25% of revenue. From 2019 to 2024, the industry revenue is predicted to increase an annualized 1.8 % to $1.2 billion. In addition to socioeconomic biases, the plaintiffs in the suit further added that standardized tests have shown discrimination against minority students. I think seeing what the student’s involvement in a community are, their responsibility, as well as the rigor in the course load, will kind of give you a more comprehensive understanding of the student and if they’re the right fit for that school.The plaintiffs claimed that by repeatedly producing a score distribution that compares students with one another, the test development process continuously discards items on which minority students perform well and retains questions on which they do not. In fact, UC psychometricians found that up to 12% of items on the S.A.T. are biased against black students and up to 10% of items are biased against Latinx students. For us, this is data that the UC Regents has and it’s showing that there is both a negative bias and a discriminatory practice. However, the College Board denied those claims to CNBC by saying that it has very strict measures and specifications for every question it gives out to test takers. The College Board stated that if students of various races respond differently to the same question they discarded immediately. The Fairness Review Panel then evaluates all the questions again before they decide to administer the exam.The inadequate investment in schools, in communities like South Los Angeles, really puts them at a disadvantage when they have to do well on a standardized test. Why put barriers in front of talented kids who would otherwise gain access to a great college or university, when we didn’t need to have those barriers. In response to growing criticisms surrounding the S.A.T College Board relaunched its Environmental Context Dashboard as a new tool called Landscape. Landscape averages six neighborhood indicators and six high school indicators and provides a rating for each factor on a scale from 1 to 100. This creates comparative percentiles for colleges to look at in their application review process. Educational tests are limited in what they can predict with respect to success in college. However, standardized tests provide very useful information in addition to grades and other sources of information. So I think we want to give college admissions officers as much information as possible that they can use to make the decisions they have to make.College Board and the National Council on Measurement Education recognize the issues faced by lower income students and minority students. However, they believe that simply getting rid of standardized exams will not solve these problems. We know that education is correlated with income. So the criticism that the S.A.T. or the A.C.T. is correlated with income really just shows that the test is measuring education. It’s measuring what it’s supposed to be measuring.Proponents of standardized exams argue that achievement gaps across different ethnic and socioeconomic groups exist at a very early age. They believe that more educators should talk about better solutions and resources for schools rather than getting rid of the tests. I think if we start to level the playing field at that level, we’ll start to see improvements throughout the education system, and of course, for college admissions too. In recent years, a significant number of U.S. colleges have adopted alternative admission policies such as test-optional. Right now, there are 1,080 accredited bachelor degree granting institutions that will make admissions decisions about all our many applicants without regard to test scores. What we label test-optional schools. The University of Chicago is one of the higher educational institutions that launched a test-optional admissions in 2018. We do know that in some cases, especially in rural high school or in inner city high schools or abroad do not have access to the kind of intensive test preparation processes that other students have available.Rather than assessing applicants standardized test scores, the admissions officers focus on student’s secondary school report, high school transcript and teacher recommendations. The university also allows all applicants to submit a wide range of supplemental materials, such as creative writing projects, highlights from music, dance or theater performance and school capstone projects. As a result, for the class of 2023, University of Chicago saw a 24% increase in first generation college going students, 10% increase in African-American students, 17% increase in Hispanic or Latino students, and a 60% increase in applications from rural students. The S.A.T.scores are fine, they’re useful, but they’re not the end of the world. They’re not everything and we need to be more flexible, it seems to me, in the ways in which we think about access to these great institutions. While the test-optional policy has improved diversity in student bodies, some are concerned that it doesn’t completely eradicate the stigmatization of underrepresented students as applicants may still choose to submit their scores. Only 10 to 15 percent of students in the freshman class at University of Chicago did not submit their S.A.T. scores. It would make no sense for us to announce we are test-optional publicly and then privately begin to discriminate against students who don’t submit S.A.T. scores. That would be fundamentally irresponsibly dishonest. I think it is a step in the right direction overall for U. Chicago, which is a prestigious school. I think that goes to show if they can do it, so can the UC’s.While higher education institutions and education experts still search for better policies. The plaintiffs in the University of California lawsuit believe that solely making standardized tests optional does not suffice. If the University of California system loses the suit, the higher education landscape could change forever.