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UC System Will Phase Out Use of SAT and ACT, Experts Say Others May Follow

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  • The University of California said it will begin phasing out SAT and ACT testing requirements over the next few years.
  • It hopes to have its own test approved by 2025 that better aligns with its expectations of a student’s preparedness for a UC school.   
  • While the coronavirus pandemic has forced colleges to rethink their admissions process, debate over the use of standardized testing has existed for years.
  • Researchers say wealthier students perform better on these tests than low-income students, but critics say they are an objective way to measure an applicant’s potential.

UC Board of Regents Votes 

The University of California college system said it will be phasing out the use of SAT and ACT exams as requirements to apply to its schools. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced the standardized tests to be postponed until at least June in order to abide by social distancing guidelines. In response, the UC system said that it would not require the scores for students hoping to start in the fall of 2021. 

But now the system is taking it a step further. On Thursday the Board of Regents unanimously voted to permanently phase out the use of tests at its 10 campuses. This is a huge move for the system, which enrolls more than 280,000 students each year. 

“Today’s decision by the Board marks a significant change for the University’s undergraduate admissions,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. “We are removing the ACT/SAT requirement for California students and developing a new test that more closely aligns with what we expect incoming students to know to demonstrate their preparedness for UC.”

The plan is for UC schools to have the option to use ACT/SAT test scores for applicants seeking to enroll in the fall 2021 and fall 2022 school years, calling it a test-optional policy.

Then for the 2023 and 2024 admissions years, the scores from California applicants will only be considered for purposes such as course placement and some scholarships. This policy has been labeled a test-blind policy.

If a new test does not meet the specified criteria in time for admissions for the fall of 2025, the UC system will eliminate the standardized testing requirement for students altogether, according to the news release.

Administrators are still coordinating a separate approach for out-of-state and international applicants.

Not Just a Pandemic Related Decision 

The coronavirus pandemic has surely forced schools to rethink their admissions processes, but it’s important to note that this decision is not solely based on the public health crisis

It actually marks the culmination of a two-year study by the UC system that looked at the value of standardized tests in admissions. 

Even before the pandemic, some have questioned whether or not it is time to eliminate standardized testing as part of the college admissions process. That’s because some researchers have found that wealthier students perform better on these tests in comparison to lower-income students. 

The notorious college admissions scandal that was exposed last year then deepened concerns over testing practices as it was revealed that, in many cases, wealthy parents were paying to help their children cheat on exams.  

In an effort to address concerns over-testing, last year the College Board even proposed a new SAT grading system that came to be known as an “adversity score,” which would put a test taker’s results into the context of that student’s socioeconomic background. It later withdrew that proposal after earning much criticism for trying to minimize complex life factors into a single score. 

Students will likely continue to take the SAT and ACT as long as they are required by highly competitive and Ivy League schools. Still, experts think the UC system’s move will be followed by other school systems, especially since the University of California is the largest university system in the country, with some of the most respected public universities like UC Berkeley and UCLA. 

“There’s already been a trend towards test-optional because more and more schools are recognizing some of the problems with standardized testing and some of the bias in there,” Jeremy Alder founder and managing editor of College Consensus told CNBC. “I think this could definitely accelerate that trend.” 

On the opposing end, others have defended the testing process as an objective way to assess a student’s achievement and potential. “Standardized tests can level the playing field for low-income and rural college applicants,” Rich Saunders wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Making those tests optional may blunt that benefit.”

So for now it seems like test makers and colleges are still trying to figure out the best way for them to admit applicants. Some schools are already utilizing test-optional policies. The University of Chicago, Bowdoin College, and DePauw University, for instance, have all moved away from requiring standardized testing.  

However, most schools are also focusing on how the pandemic is impacting its recent flow of prospective students. More than 50 universities and colleges have dropped the ACT/SAT requirement for at least fall 2021, according to a list by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit organization working to end the misuse of standardized testing.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (CNN)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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