Judge rules NY teaching test ‘racially discriminatory’ because statistics showed more minorities failed

A federal judge ruled Friday that the exam used to test New York teaching candidates was racially discriminatory because statistics showed that minorities were more prone to fail.

The Liberal Arts and Sciences exam was designed to replace a version that was ruled discriminatory by the court in 2004 for the same reason. The new version was administered until 2012, when activist groups noticed that minority candidates still had a higher rate of failure than their white counterparts.  Those statistics caused a group of prospective teachers who couldn’t pass the test to sue, alleging the exam was racially discriminatory.

Judge Kimba M. Wood agreed, and ordered education officials to prove the content of the test was necessary, according to The New York Times. Because officials were unable to prove the necessity of evaluating a candidate’s knowledge of liberal arts and science, Wood ruled that it can no longer be used to evaluate prospective employees.

In practice, the ruling means New York education officials will have to create new evaluations that accommodate a higher percentage of minority teachers, even if that means lowering the standards.

Potentially less qualified teachers, however, won’t be the only side effect. Joshua Stone, a partner at the law firm representing prospective teachers, said thousands of teaching candidates who were denied employment because of their test results might also be eligible for reconsideration, and even back pay.

“Instead of beginning with ascertaining the job tasks of New York teachers, the [test] began with the premise that all New York teachers should be required to demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts,” Wood wrote in her decision. According to Wood, demonstrating knowledge of liberal arts and science are not necessary enough job requirements to justify the exam.

Wood’s decision is the latest in a string of setbacks for New York education officials. An earlier incarnation of the test was also deemed racially biased for similar reasons, and Wood has expressed concern over another exam used to evaluate potential teachers for similar reasons.

Rewriting the requirements for becoming a teacher, simply to accommodate more minority candidates, isn’t going to do much for the education system in New York. But at least Judge Wood will be able to pat herself on the back for caring so much about diversity.

Michael Schaus


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