Teachers' Exam Still Racially Biased, According to Judge

New York Teachers’ Exam Discriminates Against Minorities, According to Court

Citing a 20 percentage point disparity in the pass rate between white applicants and applicants of color, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the New York state teachers’ exam is racially biased. The test being scrutinized by the judge, the second version of the state exam, was used between 2004 and 2012.

Writing on behalf of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, Judge Kimba M. Wood ruled that education officials had failed to show that the skills being tested were essential to work as a teacher. Because the dramatically different success rate was sufficient evidence of discrimination, education officials could only continue to use the test if they could demonstrate that it measured skills and abilities necessary to perform the job. The company that created the test, National Evaluation Systems, apparently sent surveys to teachers in New York asking if the test included questions that were “relevant and important to teaching,” but received limited response.

According to Judge Wood’s opinion, National Evaluation Systems should have developed the test by first determining what teachers needed to know to perform at the highest levels. Instead, said Judge Brown, the company simply assumed that teachers must have a solid grasp of “the liberal arts.”

The test being disputed in the lawsuit, known as LAST-2 (Liberal Arts and Sciences Test), was a revision of the prior exam—LAST-1—which was also ruled discriminatory by a federal court. Nearly 4,000 people have filed legal action alleging discrimination under LAST-1, and legal experts project that thousands may have a potential Title VII claim.

The LAST-2 exam was replaced in 2013 by the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST). In addition, potential teachers now undergo a wide range of other assessment. The ALST, though, has also been under attack because of disparities in test results for white candidates and candidates of color.

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