Saturday, June 6, 2015
A federal judge has ruled that an exam for New York teaching candidates was racially discriminatory, the latest step in a court battle over teacher qualifications that has spanned nearly 20 years
The exam, the second incarnation of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, called the LAST-2, was administered from 2004 through 2012 and was designed to test an applicant’s knowledge of liberal arts and science. But minority teaching candidates failed the test at a higher rate than white candidates. According to the decision, written by Judge Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court in Manhattan, the pass rate for African-American and Latino candidates was between 54% and 75% of the pass rate for white candidates. Once it was established that minority applicants were failing at a disproportionately high rate, the burden shifted to education officials to prove that the skills being tested were necessary to do the job; otherwise, the test would be ruled discriminatory. With this ruling, the LAST-2 meets the same fate of the LAST-1, an earlier version of the test, given from 1993 to 2004, that was also ruled to be discriminatory. Neither version of the exams is still in use in New York. Instead the state administers a new test called the Academic Literacy Skills Test, or the ALST, along with a slate of other assessments. The fate of the ALST, however, was recently called into question as well. In Spring 2015, Judge Wood began questioning whether that test, too, was racially discriminatory. A hearing is scheduled on the issue for later in June 2015. According to the city’s Department of Education, while 25% of the city’s public school students are black and 41% are Hispanic, 60% of its teachers are white. Fifteen percent of the teachers are Hispanic and 18% are black.