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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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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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