New York Wants to Get Rid of Literacy Test for Teachers Because Too Many Non-White People Failed

For years, the quality of the education system in the United States has been at the forefront of people's minds.

While many are split as to the best solution to fix the problem, both sides of the aisle seem to agree that the education system is failing America's youth.

So, it may come as a surprise that New York is proposing to get rid of an exam meant to evaluate the ability of future educators.

The Academic Literacy Skills Test was introduced during the 2013-2014 school year to try to raise the teaching quality and “weed out” lesser candidates, as reported by Heat Street.

One Arizona educator, who has experience working with foreign teachers, sees the importance in the exam. The teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous told Independent Journal Review:

“If they are teaching in America, I think they should be able to pass a literacy test in order to teach. I have had experience working with foreigners and it seems as if they struggle because they don't understand all of the concepts.”

According to the Associated Press, New York's Board of Regents is expected to eliminate the exam that evaluates reading and writing abilities. Critics of the test claimed that it disproportionally discriminated against minorities because they failed at higher rates than white students.

Even with the gap between minority and white students who pass on the first try, a federal judge ruled that the test was not discriminatory in 2015.

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, the passing rate on the first try among different ethnicities was:

  • Hispanic: 46%
  • Black: 41%
  • White: 64%

Professor of Education at Pace University, Leslie Soodak, served on the task force that recommended eliminating the exam and told the AP:

“We want high standards, without a doubt. Not every given test is going to get us there.”

She went on to explain that a “white workforce really doesn’t match our student body anymore.”

Credit: Getty/Melanie Stetson Freeman

Supporters of the exam are concerned that eliminating a measure designed to increase the quality of teaching, will open the doors to weak teachers becoming educators.

Amy S. considers a competency test essential, but recommended modifying the current test to ensure all teacher applicants have a fair chance.

From her experience, she sees the main hole in testing potential teachers as the lack of a classroom evaluation. She told IJR:

“I wouldn't support getting rid of the test completely, but modifying the test and then adding an 'in class' or 'real world' evaluation, which ideally would be evaluated with more weight than the literacy test.”

Kate Walsh, the president of National Council on Teacher Quality, blamed minority students' upbringing, not racism, for why they score lower on the exam.

Credit: Getty/Charles Eshelman

She told the AP it would be a “crying shame,” to get rid of the test, but acknowledged the challenge all exams pose to minorities:

“There's not a test in the country that doesn't have disproportionate performance on the part of blacks and Latinos.”

While Walsh values the exam, Edee B. and other people she's spoken to have a different outlook. She, along with other people she's spoken to, took similar exams and felt it was a “waste of time.” She described the experience to IJR:

“It took longer to turn the pages than take the test ... I also think that the test has very little to do with what is taught in college, it is a test of common sense. I'm not sure that I see any value in it as it is written.”

Despite her misgivings about the value of the exam, she doesn't see the test results as a problem of racism. Edee said:

“If the test-takers have a poor foundation, then they will have a problem with the test. The question is, who laid the foundation and was it laid properly.”

According to a report by the AP, people of varying educational backgrounds found the formatting of the exam confusing. However, Walsh claimed the exam has helped put New York “light years ahead of other states.”

 

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