New York judge rules that it is racist to expect teachers to be functionally literate

Political spending by the NEA in 2013
Political spending by the NEA union in 2013

This story is from The Stream.

Excerpt:

A federal judge in New York has struck down a test used by New York City to vet potential teachers, finding the test of knowledge illegally discriminated against racial minorities due to their lower scores.

[…][T]he city’s second Liberal Arts and Science Test (LAST-2) …[is]… simply a test to make sure that teachers had a basic high school-level understanding of both the liberal arts and the sciences.

One sample question from the test asked prospective educators to identify the mathematical principle of a linear relationship when given four examples; another asked them to read four passages from the Constitution and identify which illustrated checks and balances. Besides factual knowledge, the test also checks basic academic skills, such as reading comprehension and the ability to read basic charts and graphs.

Nevertheless, this apparently neutral subject matter contained an insidious kernel of racism, because Hispanic and black applicants had a passage rate only 54 to 75 percent of the passage rate for whites.

Once their higher failure rate was established, the burden shifted to New York to prove that LAST-2 measured skills that were essential for teachers and therefore was justified in having a racially unequal outcome. While it might seem obvious that possessing basic subject knowledge is a key skill for a teacher, District Judge Kimba Wood said the state hadn’t met that burden.

“Instead of beginning with ascertaining the job tasks of New York teachers, the two LAST examinations began with the premise that all New York teachers should be required to demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts,” Wood wrote in her opinion, according to The New York Times.

LAST-2 hasn’t been used in New York since 2012, but the ruling will still have repercussions. Minorities who failed the exam (who number in the thousands) may be owed years of back pay totaling millions of dollars, and those who were relegated to substitute teaching jobs could be promoted to having their own classrooms. In addition, while Wood’s ruling only applies to New York City, the test was used statewide, and it could serve as a precedent for further lawsuits.

The ruling could also pave the way for another ruling finding New York’s current teacher test, the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), to be discriminatory as well. That test is even harder than LAST-2, with a strong focus on literacy skills such as writing and reading comprehension, and like LAST-2 it has a very large gap in scores between whites and minorities. A lawsuit, once again being heard by Wood, is already pending, with the plaintiffs arguing that there is no clear evidence strong literacy skills are essential for a teacher.

See this is why you shouldn’t send your children to public schools without checking them out first. Places like New York and Chicago are especially notorious for hiring poorly-performing teachers – and for refusing to fire them, no matter what they do. What does the government care whether the kids learn or not? Unionized teachers do not get paid based on their ability to get students to perform. They get paid based on the contracts that are negotiated between their union and the government. If it’s a Democrat government, then a fair amount of the union dues are going to be funneled into Democrat coffers, anyway. So why would the Democrats take on the teacher unions that get them elected? They would not. And that’s one major reason why so many kids in these public schools cannot read, write, or do math. It’s by design. The goals of the public education system are 1) to make sure teachers get paid regardless of performance, and 2) to get Democrats elected. Parents and children are no part of the equation.

It seems to me that the real racism is when judges privilege the interests of grown-ups over the interests of poor, minority students. We should be focused on making sure that students have the best teachers, not protecting the jobs of the worst teachers for political gain.

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