It seems reasonable enough: An assessment test meant to determine the level of proficiency of those wishing to become teachers. If you want to be a teacher, it helps to know if you know what you’re going to be teaching. As a teacher, you’re going to be testing your students to see if they’ve retained what they’ve learned from you, so before they start paying you to be a teacher, they just want to make sure you know what you’re talking about.
But the test – called the Academic Literacy Skills Test – is problematic according to some officials, and now New York’s Board of Regents is ready to eliminate it altogether.
It’s essentially a reading comprehension test. A $20 practice test, for instance, quotes an excerpt from President JFK inaugural speech and asks multiple choice questions about it, such as the following: “In which excerpt from the passage do Kennedy’s word choices most clearly establish a tone of resolve?”
So, what’s the reason this test is causing so much ire? The reason can be summed up in this excerpt of the Associated Press‘s article. Let’s see if you have the reading comprehension required to know what they’re saying between the lines:
“But the literacy test raised alarms from the beginning because just 46 percent of Hispanic test takers and 41 percent of black test takers passed it on the first try, compared with 64 percent of white candidates.”
Yep. You probably guessed it. The test is racist. Whites performed roughly 20 percent better than Hispanics and blacks. And that’s the reason they want it scrapped.
“Having a white workforce really doesn’t match our student body anymore,” said Leslie Soodak. She’s an Education professor at Pace University, and she’s helped examine the state’s teacher certification tests.
Having said that, this doesn’t mean the standardized test is without problems. I don’t think it’s racist, just because whites on average performed better on it than minorities. That has more to do with education backgrounds than it does skin color. Whites aren’t scoring higher because they’re “privileged.”
As with many standardized tests, oftentimes there seems to be more than one correct answer on the multiple choice questions. According to the AP:
Charles Sahm, the director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, is a strong supporter of raising the bar for teachers but not a fan of this particular literacy test.
Sahm took the $20 practice exam and thought it was a poorly designed test with multiple-choice questions that seemed to have more than one correct answer.
“I do agree that it’s not a great test,” Sahm said. “I found the reading comprehension section to be kind of infuriating. I only got 21 out of 40 right.”
If that’s the case, then I agree with scrapping it – as long as people don’t blame it on “racism” and “white privilege.”
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