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University of California schools can no longer use SAT and ACT test results in deciding undergraduate admissions as the school system’s “test optional” policy at some of its campuses may unfairly benefit those who can access a test amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a judge ruled.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman said that “test optional” policy at some U.C. campuses denies students who do not submit standardized test results a “second look” during the admissions process that those who do submit the tests are afforded.

The U.C. system, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious university systems, had planned to phase out its use of the SAT and ACT, announcing in May that it was suspending the testing requirement for its applicants through 2024 as it looked to create its own standardized test.

However, the system allowed for a “test optional” policy at some campuses in the mean time, which would permit students who want to take the SAT and ACT to submit their scores in hopes of boosting their admission chances.

Seligman said attorneys for the U.C. system showed that by submitting their scores, students at the “test optional” campuses “can only help, and never hurt an applicant.”

“Put another way,” Seligman wrote, “the tests are treated as a plus factor and thus test-submitters are given a second opportunity for admission consideration.”

This “second look,” however, unfairly harms students with disabilities who cannot access SAT and ACT tests or fair accommodations, lawyers seeking to eliminate the use of standardized tests argued.

Seligman said that all students must have equal access to the benefit that getting that “second look” by submitting test scores grants them.

Students with disabilities have long faced challenges in getting access to testing accommodations, Seligman noted, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this.

While all students have had their access to testing disrupted with the pandemic, students with disabilities face greater barriers, Seligman said.

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