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Teacher Preparation

Judge Throws Out N.Y. Teacher Test, Calling it Discriminatory

By Stephen Sawchuk — June 08, 2015 1 min read

A former teacher-licensing test in New York has been thrown out by a federal judge for discriminating against nonwhite teacher-candidates, a decision that also casts doubt on a battery of new exams in the state.

Proportionally fewer minority candidates passed the exam, which measured grasp of liberal arts and sciences and was in place from 2004-2012.

It was clear as far back as April that the judge was leaning towards this ruling. (An earlier version of the test was thrown out already).

In her ruling, Judge Kimba Wood wrote that the state hadn’t proven that that demonstrating a knowledge of the liberal arts as measured by the exam was necessary to the task of teaching. The New York Times has the story, complete with possible financial liabilities for the state.

On the other hand, my email box is filling up with people outraged that some level of content knowledge shouldn’t be considered a baseline, common-sense requirement for teachers. “Maybe there should be two levels of pass scores, so that lower-level teachers could teach low-achieving students,” one reader quipped angrily.

The ruling here collides with a major push to make it harder, rather than easier, to get into teaching via higher entry standards set through tests, GPA requirements, or accreditation rules. For example, groups are pushing back on an accreditor of teacher colleges for stepping up requirements for new candidates; one of their main concerns is equity.

And in New York, a battery of new exams has caused such pushback that the regents have delayed all of them at least once. And at least one of them, a literacy test that’s the successor to the one that was just thrown out, continues to show a disparity in passing rates between white candidates and candidates of color.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.