First the facts. In academic year 2013-14, New York State introduced four assessments meant to raise the level of elementary and secondary school teaching in the state. One of them was the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), which evaluates the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers. The idea is to weed out aspiring teachers who aren't strong students. Sounds sensible, doesn't it?
Now the problem. A December 2016 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that 44% of the teacher preparation programs it surveyed accepted students from the bottom half of their high school classes. The literacy test raised alarms from the beginning because just 46% per cent of Hispanic test takers and 41% of black test takers passed it on the first try, compared with 64% of white candidates. If this comes as a surprise to you, read "Educational achievement: race makes a difference", WWW 12/1/17.
Cue the usual suspects -- "anti-racists", SJWs, "progressive thinkers" and (of course) teachers unions -- who protest that the Academic Literacy Skills Test is redundant and a poor predictor of who will succeed as a teacher. Leslie Soodak is a professor education at Pace University, who served on the task force that examined New York's teacher certification tests. "We want high standards, without a doubt," says Prof Soodak, but "not every given test is going to get us there." Besides, "Having a white workforce really doesn't match our student body anymore."
On cue and on message, Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality [sic], which claims to be promoting higher standards for teachers, said that blacks and Latinos don't score as well as whites on the literacy test because of factors like poverty and the "legacy of racism". Says Ms Walsh, "There’s not a test in the country that doesn't have disproportionate performance on the part of blacks and Latinos."
Since there's no difference between the intellectual capacity of the races, that means there's something wrong with the tests. Right? [Left? Ed.] As surely as the sun rises in the east, the solution proposed by the liberals is... wait for it... scrap the test! The New York Board of Regents is expected to adopt tomorrow the recommendation of the task force on which Prof Soodak served to eliminate the Academic Literacy Skills Test altogether.
The ALST consists of multiple-choice questions about a series of reading selections plus a written section. A practice test available for $20 on the New York State Education Department website features John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address as one of the reading passages and asks questions like: 'In which excerpt from the passage do Kennedy's word choices most clearly establish a tone of resolve?"
Ian Rosenblum, the executive director of the New York office of the Education Trust, a non-profit that advocates for high achievement for all students, called the literacy test "a 12th grade-level assessment", something a high school senior should be able to pass. But Pace University student Tabitha Colon took the test last year and failed to get a passing score. She likened it to the English portion of the SAT and said it was "pretty difficult". And, she added, she was thrown off by the fact that the test was given online, rather than on paper. "The format on the computer was a bit confusing."
Before you shed too many tears for Ms Colon, consider that she was still able to pass the ALST, thanks to a "safety net" provision that lets students demonstrate proficiency by submitting grades from a class -- grades given by teachers who may not themselves have passed the test. She is now working as a student teacher in Ossining NY -- not in the prison but in a middle school.
Worth viewing: "Latest Research on Race", video lecture by Professor Philippe Rushton, WWW 12/1/17.