Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Judge Rules NY Teacher Exam Is Racially Biased And Discriminatory - What About NY's Common Core Tests?

From the NY Times:

A federal judge on Friday found that an exam for New York teaching candidates was racially discriminatory because it did not measure skills necessary to do the job, 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 the test was found to fail minority teaching candidates at a higher rate than white candidates. According to Friday’s 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 percent and 75 percent 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.

In creating the test, the company, National Evaluation Systems, sent surveys to educators around New York State to determine if the test’s “content objectives” were relevant and important to teaching. The samples for both surveys were small, however, Judge Wood said.

The judge found that National Evaluation Systems, now called Evaluation Systems, part of Pearson Education, went about the process backward.

“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,” Judge Wood wrote.

Joshua Sohn, a partner at the firm Mishcon de Reya, who represents the prospective teachers in the case, echoed the that sentiment.

“They started with the conclusion, without any support, that this is what you actually needed to know to be an effective teacher,” Mr. Sohn said.

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 found to be discriminatory.

The third iteration of New York's teacher test, named the Academic Literacy Skills Test, or the ALST, is next on the case docket.  A hearing is scheduled for later this month in from of Judge Wood for that test as well.

Lace to the Top applies the judge's decision to the LAST-2 to the Common Core tests:

I dunno if the New York State Common Core tests are racially biased and discriminatory, but they sure are developmentally inappropriate, as Anthony Cardinale, a third grade teacher in the Carmel district, points out:

Testing. It has become a dirty word. Last year, between 55,000 and 65,000 families refused to have their children take the New York State Common Core assessments. Those numbers are likely to increase in the coming weeks.

Parents and educators continue to voice their concerns regarding the vagueness of questions, a lack of transparency, the sheer length of the exams, and the recent monitoring of students' social media accounts by Pearson. However, one of my major concerns is text complexity.

The best example of this can be found on the EngageNY website. "The Gray Hare," by Leo Tolstoy, is included as a third grade sample reading passage. According to the Fry Readability Formula, this short story is written on a 7th grade reading level. As a teacher who has administered the last two Common Core ELA assessments, I can tell you that the passages presented to my students were just as difficult.

In addition to being unfair to students, the inclusion of these passages is in complete violation of Common Core Standard RL.3.10, which states that students should be reading material on their grade level. As a teacher and a parent, I know this is unjust.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will tell you the scores can be used by educators to improve instruction. But when the reading passages are this far above grade level, the scores become invalid. The only thing these tests tell me is that my third-graders cannot read on a seventh-grade level. I don't need a test to tell me that.

This situation is not unique to third grade, either. All students in grades 3-8 have been placed in a similar situation for the past two years.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld the rights of parents to direct the education of their children. As parents, this means we can choose to have our children take part in these assessments or we can refuse on their behalf. Luckily, I have several more years until my daughter is in third grade. But if these tests continue to be as inappropriate as they are now, I will have my refusal letter ready.

Opting out is a great weapon against the Common Core tests and the Endless Testing agenda.

But so is suing.

Perhaps it's time to take on the Common Core tests in the judicial system over the issue of developmental appropriateness the way the last two LAST tests were taken on over racial bias and discrimination?


  1. Comparing the LAST and the Common Core ELA tests is comparing apples and oranges.I'll give you that what is tested on the LAST technically has nothing to do with skills essential to be a teacher (it's been many years since I took the exam, but this much I remember). However- that's not what the test is for (the ATSW -or whatever they may call it now- serves that purpose). It is a test of both literacy and fundamental knowledge that every teacher should have, regardless of their race. How anybody ever decided that having a basic skill set when you're a teacher is somehow "discriminatory" is beyond me.

    This is a far cry from testing an eight year old on a reading piece that is more appropriate for a twelve or thirteen year old.

  2. The Common Core ELA Tests are called achievement tests, but this is a misnomer. They were created to show failure. Hence they should be called failure tests. The tests are discriminatory in the sense that many minority groups are also disproportionately represented in the low-income category, yet the state has deliberately chosen to remove funding to reduce class sizes and to support resource room instruction among other things. Therefore you have a situation where you are asking kids who couldn't pass an easier state test with resources in place, now being asked to take a super complex, grade-inappropriate test without necessary resources in place. This amounts to discrimination. Additionally, the "Failure Test" is using the kids as guinea pigs to close schools, open charters, terminate well-paid teachers,and union bust amongst other things. Bottom line, the tests were created for FAILURE and they ARE discriminatory.

  3. The kids are not guinea pigs, they're cannon fodder in the war against teachers and public schools.

  4. The judge found that the significantly higher numbers of people of color failing the LAST Exam is discriminatory, If kids of color (connected to poverty) fail the CC exams in higher percentage - VOILA!