NY State scraps literacy test for teachers
The state of New York has had problems with public education for years if not decades. It got so bad that in 2013 the state education department required prospective teachers to pass a literacy test.
Just one problem: too many black and Hispanic candidates failed it.
The solution? State education officials are poised to scrap the literacy-testing requirement today.
Backers of the test are horrified by the prospect of having to give teaching tenure to people who aren't totally literate themselves, while critics of the literacy requirement said it is "redundant" and "a poor predictor of who will succeed as a teacher."
The critics haven't explained why it's a good plan to hire a teacher who can't pass a literacy test.
Of course the anti-test people have claimed they really, absolutely, totally want "high standards."
"We want high standards, without a doubt," said Leslie Soodak, a professor of education who served on the task force that examined the state's teacher certification tests.
Education experts have complained for years about the low quality of many of those who go into teaching. A 2016 study found that 44 percent of the teacher preparation programs surveyed accepted students from the bottom half of their high school classes. The reformers believe the literacy test and others can weed out aspiring teachers who aren't strong students.
But the literacy test raised alarms from the beginning because just 46 percent of Hispanic test takers and 41 percent of black test takers passed it on the first try, compared with 64 percent of white candidates.
A federal judge ruled that the test was not discriminatory, but faculty members at education schools say a test that so many minorities can't pass "is problematic," which seems to be bureau-babble for "discriminatory."
The president of the "National Council on Teacher Quality" said blacks and Latinos don't score as well as whites on the literacy test because of factors like poverty and "the legacy of racism" but doesn't suggest getting rid of the literacy test.
The director of the New York office of the Education Trust called the literacy test "a 12th grade-level assessment" - something a high school senior should be able to pass. In any case, aspiring teachers can still "pass" thanks to a provision that lets students pass by submitting grades from a class.
The state rules call this a "safety net" provision, and it shows that the state was simply giving lip service to the idea of tightening standards without really doing anything rigorous.
So the bottom line is, state adds literacy-test requirement to look like it's serious about raising teacher proficiency, but adds safety-net provision to give those who fail it a zero-skill workaround. Then 4 years later, new bureaucrats realize this isn't accomplishing anything--by design--and scrap the original literacy test provision.
Meanwhile everyone in the business professes to be utterly mystified by the increasing popularity of voucher programs to get kids out of public schools.