New York Literacy Test for Future Teachers to Be Scrapped Over Concerns of Lack of ‘Diversity’

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By Lukas Mikelionis | 7:22 am, March 13, 2017

New York education officials are planning to scrap a literacy test for people trying to become teachers, claiming too many non-white individuals fail it and therefore weaken diversity within the profession.

The state Board of Regents is expected to adopt the recommendation of getting rid of the test, which is designed to measure reading and writing skills, known as the Academic Literacy Skills Test, The Associated Press reports.

Professor of Education at Pace University, Leslie Soodak, who served on the task force that made the recommendation, said “We want high standards, without a doubt. Not every given test is going to get us there.”

The literacy test which was introduced in the 2013-2014 school year was part of an effort to raise the quality of teaching in New York and to weed out inferior students. Proponents of the reform had criticized the quality of students trying to become teachers. A 2016 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that 44 percent of the teacher preparation programs it looked at accepted people from the bottom half of their high school class.

The test, however, caused concern among some groups as just 46 percent of Hispanic test takers and 41 percent of black test takers managed to pass it at the first attempt as against 64 percent of white students.

Despite a federal ruling in 2015 which concluded that the test was not discriminatory, some members of education schools suggested the test has discrepancies between white people and the minorities.

“Having a white workforce really doesn’t match our student body anymore,” Soodak said.

People backing the literacy test claim removing it could lead to weak teachers in classrooms. Kate Walsh, the president of National Council on Teacher Quality, said that minorities tend to score less due to factors such as poverty and the legacy of racism.

“There’s not a test in the country that doesn’t have disproportionate performance on the part of blacks and Latinos,” she said. Eliminating the test, however, would be “a crying shame.”

According to Walsh, thanks to the literacy test, New York became “light years ahead of other states” when it comes to the teacher certification regimen.