Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.

Judge Finds N.Y. Certification Exam Discriminatory

By Mark Walsh — June 08, 2015 2 min read

A federal judge has ruled that the new version of a teacher-certification test used by New York state was not properly validated and had a racially disparate impact on black and Latino test-takers in the New York City school system.

The June 5 decision in the nearly 20-year-old case involves the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, a version of which teachers in New York state were required to pass to gain certification until 2012. (My colleague Stephen Sawchuk also reports on the decision at his Teacher Beat blog.)

U.S. District Judge Kimba R. Wood of New York City had ruled in 2012 that an earlier version of the test, LAST-1, administered from 1993 to 2004, had a discriminatory impact on black and Latino test-takers. The new decision involves a revised test, LAST-2, and its use from 2004 through 2012.

“The court holds that the [New York City school district] unfairly discriminated against African-American and Latino applicants by requiring them to pass the LAST-2,” Wood said in the new opinion in Gulino v. Board of Education of the City School District of New York City.

Wood accepted the findings of a neutral expert that the pass rates for black and Latino test-takers were between 54 percent and 75 percent of the pass rate of white test-takers. (The opinion did not provide the actual pass rates.)

The school system could rebut the plaintiffs’ showing that the test is discriminatory on its face by establishing that the test is sufficiently job-related, the judge said. But as with the LAST-1 test, the New York City system and the producer of the test, which is National Evaluation Systems (now part of Pearson Education Inc.), failed to meet the relevant legal test in the 2nd Circuit for validating a job-related test.

“In reaching that conclusion, the court does not suggest that it would be unhelpful or unwise for the [New York City system] to test applicants’ knowledge of the liberal arts and sciences with a properly validated exam,” Wood said. “It may be the case that all teachers, whether they instruct kindergartners or high school seniors, must understand certain areas of the liberal arts and sciences (separate and apart from the particular subject matter they teach) in order to be competent in the classroom.”

“But,” she continued, “test designers must establish [that fact] through adequate validation procedures.”

The LAST-2, like its predecessor, was thus indefensible under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she said.

Wood said that to properly validate its test, NES must start by identifying the necessary job tasks for a public school teacher.

“The importance of identifying these job tasks is amplified here because every teacher in New York must be licensed, whether she teaches kindergarten, or advanced chemistry,” the judge said. “NES therefore needs to determine exactly what job tasks are performed, and accordingly, what [knowledge, skills, and abilities] are required, to teach kindergarten through 12th grade proficiently. This is likely a daunting task given how different the daily experience of a kindergarten teacher is from that of an advanced chemistry teacher.”

Wood gave the parties until June 29 to weigh in on “what steps need to be taken in accordance with this opinion.”

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.


Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read