NY State Eliminates Literacy Tests for Teachers...Because Reading Is Racist?


One of the most basic things teachers must be able to do is understand the materials they’re presenting. No, they don’t have to be experts necessarily, but they do need to be able to read and comprehend the text and any supplemental materials they may have. Pretty straightforward, right? After all, you have to be a college graduate to teach in a public school.

Unfortunately for people in New York, if your child attends school, your “certified” teacher may soon be someone who can’t pass a basic reading test.

The Board of Regents on Monday eliminated a requirement that aspiring teachers in New York State pass a literacy test to become certified after the test proved controversial because black and Hispanic candidates passed it at significantly lower rates than white candidates.

Yes, seriously. This is the New York Times, which purports to be a serious news organization, not The Onion.

The New York Board of Regents eliminated a literacy test for would-be teachers because some teachers couldn’t pass a literacy test … and this is getting a pass because the teachers failing it happen to be minorities.

Folks, I agree there’s a problem here, but I don’t think the Board of Regents up that way really has a grasp on what the issue is.

How are people who have supposedly finished four years of college unable to pass a literacy test? If this is indeed the case, then further investigation is warranted.  There has to be a reason … unless they’re going with the idea that reading is somehow racist.

The Times continued.

The literacy test proved challenging to many prospective teachers, but particularly for black and Hispanic candidates. An analysis done in 2014, the year the test was first administered, found that 64 percent of white candidates passed the test on the first try, while only 46 percent of Hispanic candidates and 41 percent of black candidates did.

Nonetheless, a federal judge who had found two older certification tests to be discriminatory ruled in 2015 that the ALST was not biased, because it measured skills that were necessary for teaching.

However, deans of education schools, especially those with large numbers of black and Hispanic students, disagreed, and argued that the exam was exacerbating a shortage of teachers of color. More than 80 percent of public-school teachers in the country are white, according to the federal Education Department, while a majority of public school students are not.

Others said that the exam was redundant, given the other requirements to become a teacher.

Now, the numbers for passing appear low for a literacy test, which means one of two things. The first is that the test is extremely difficult and is more than a basic literacy test, and that is entirely possible. The next is that the people taking the certification exam in New York state to become teachers are morons, which I am unable to dismiss out of hand either.

However, eliminating a test—one that the court that found other exams discriminatory said wasn’t—might not be the right way to solve a low pass rate. Simplifying the test to better reflect what teachers are actually required to do on a daily basis makes sense.

If the test already does that then … well … I pity the children of New York.

Requiring a teacher to be able to read isn’t racist, and acting like it is happens to be idiotic. It’s just common sense. The fact that so many are failing, while concerning, isn’t an argument for doing away with literacy testing for teachers. It’s a call for figuring out exactly why they’re failing and dealing with it at the source.

Kind of like many other things that get called proof of racism.