Equity & Diversity

Groups Win Stay Against Texas Teacher Exam

By Lynn Olson — September 04, 1991 2 min read

A federal judge has temporarily barred the state of Texas from excluding students from teacher-education programs solely on the basis of their failure to pass the state’s pre-professional-skills test.

Judge William Wayne Justice of the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas last week approved the preliminary injunction in United States v. State of Texas.

He wrote that evidence “strongly suggested” the state intended to discriminate in adopting the P.P.S.T., and that plaintiffs’ claims that their 14th-Amendment rights had been violated were likely to succeed.

Since the P.P.S.T. was first given in March 1984, some 6,000 students have failed to pass the test, including 78 percent of blacks, 66 percent of Hispanics, and 27 percent of Anglos.

The Texas Education Agency is seeking a stay of the judge’s order and is planning an appeal.

14th Amendment Rights

The suit was brought by three civil-rights groups—the N.A.A.C.P., the G.I. Forum, and the League of United Latin-American Citizens—and 14 black and Hispanic college students who had failed the exam.

In addition to arguing that the students’ 14th-Amendment rights had been violated, lawyers for the plaintiffs alleged that the state violated the students’ right to due process by not giving them sufficient notice of the test’s contents.

“The indifference displayed by the defendants to the massive adverse impact of the P.P.S.T. requirement, and the lack of any coordinated attempt to institute an organized program of remediation targeted at helping students to pass the P.P.S.T., seem to have sprung from an attitude that minority students were themselves to blame for their poor performance,” the judge wrote.

Test Not Invalid

Judge Justice cautioned that the injunction does not invalidate the test. If the case is not settled in the plaintiffs’ favor, he wrote, students could still have to pass the P.P.S.T. to become certified as teachers.

Meanwhile, he has ordered the state education department to assist colleges of education in informing students who have failed the examination that they may sign up for education courses this semester.

In a statement released the day after the judge’s decision, Commissioner of Education William N. Kirby said he will stand by the “validity and necessity of the test,” which he called “a crucial element” in the state’s efforts to improve teacher quality.

He maintained that the lower passing rates among minorities stem from the fact that Texas has “fallen short” in the past in educating these students, and not from intentional discrimination.

The P.P.S.T. was developed by the Educational Testing Service and is used by institutions of higher education, school districts, and state agencies in 27 states.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 04, 1985 edition of Education Week as Groups Win Stay Against Texas Teacher Exam

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