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New York drops teacher literacy test, claiming it is discriminatory

(Darin Epperly/The Norfolk Daily News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

(Darin Epperly/The Norfolk Daily News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

If you are are an aspiring teacher but lack basic skills, such as reading, then you’re in luck.

New York State eliminated a requirement for teachers to pass a literacy test to become certified with the Board of Regents because it is discriminatory. The decision occurred Monday after the Regents found black and Hispanic teaching candidates passed the literacy test at significantly lower rates than white candidates. Despite a long struggle to improve the public education system and raise the standards for aspiring teachers, the Regents will now certify teachers based on the recommendations they get.

64 percent of white candidates passed the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), according to the New York Times, compared with only 46 percent of Hispanic candidates and 41 percent of black candidates. This proves the ALST is a biased measure, the Regents ruled.

The Regents acted on an earlier decision by Judge Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who found racial minorities were failing the exam at disproportionately higher rates. Wood suggested measuring teaching candidates by skills other than those required for the ALST.

“Instead of beginning with ascertaining the job tasks of New York teachers, the two LAST examinations began with the premise that all New York teachers should be required to demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts,” she wrote.

Despite the rules having changed, the debate over New York’s teaching evaluation system is ongoing. A federal judge ruled in 2015 that the test was not racially discriminatory, because it evaluated aspiring teachers based on basic skills, not race.

“What we are effectively doing is perpetuating a cycle of underperformance,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

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