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NY Board of Regents Continues to Strive for Mediocrity

In mid-March, the New York State Board of Regents voted to abandon The Academic Literacy Skills test used to evaluate the qualification of prospective public educators.

The Academic Literacy Skills test is one of four tests that prospective teachers must pass in order to become certified in New York State.

Its main criticism? Not enough minorities are passing it.

According to the New York State Education Department, in the past three years, black candidates have passed at a 38 percent rate, Hispanic candidates at 46 percent, and white candidates at 69 percent.

“We’re not getting rid of literacy, so let’s dispel that right now,” said Kathleen Cashin, chair of the Board of Regents Higher Education Committee, in an interview with the Albany Times-Union. “Just because the word ‘literacy’ is on the test, doesn’t mean it’s a good test, does it? And if it’s not a good test, our students shouldn’t be subjected to it.”

Photo taken from Breitbart.com

Photo taken from Breitbart.com

“Having a white workforce really doesn’t match our student body anymore,” said Leslie Soodak, a professor of education at Pace University who served on the task force that examined the state’s teacher certification tests.

As a disclaimer, I am not an education expert and I’m not going to pretend to be. I cannot vouch for the content of the test itself. This is simply an outside perspective of the absurdity of New York’s effort to unnecessarily diversify classrooms.

The fact that this is an issue is not indicative of racial prejudices. It’s not some grand scheme for rich whites to produce an education system that only yields rich white teachers. This speaks to the very duress in which the New York education system is under.

The logic here is flawed to begin with. When prospective candidates aren’t able to pass this test, is making their path to teaching easier by eliminating it altogether really the solution? Logic dictates doing so would put under-qualified educators to work, yielding a generation with a lesser academic ability, and an even lesser ability to pass future certification tests.

What’s the message New York is putting out here? If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards?

“What we are effectively doing is perpetuating a cycle of underperformance,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, in an interview with the New York Times. “People are showing a tremendous amount of weakness by just backpedaling because they feel like it’s the politically sensible thing to do.”

So instead of fostering underperformance, why doesn’t New York State take measures to better prepare prospective educators? Students that have risen through New York public schools, being educated by teachers who passed these skills tests are failing at an overwhelming rate. This implies there exists something far more damaging to the education system in regards to career preparation than just one test.

Critics of the Academic Literacy Skills test make out the 69 percent at which white candidates pass something to marvel. One third of every candidate, after achieving a Bachelor’s Degree, failing a literacy test is a terrible statistic, as are the rates for black and Hispanic candidates. But don’t blame it on the test—if anything, blame it on the education system for not having high enough standards to equip candidates with the education they need to pass to begin with.

Let’s dispel something else right now. Lowering the bar for minorities to get greater representation in the education workforce is not doing any favors to the minority community. Sure, individual teachers will have a job to show for it—but after that, is someone who doesn’t know the difference between there, their and they’re someone you really want to be educating the next generation of minorities? Instead of lowering the bar, let’s give every child opportunity to succeed by putting a highly qualified teacher in front of them, no matter their race.  

“We don’t care about the color or race of the teacher, we want highly effective teachers teaching our children,” said Mona Davids, President of the New York City Parents Union, in an interview with Breitbart. “Eliminating [the test] just to increase the number of unqualified, unprepared Black and Latino prospective teachers is the most racist and destructive action taken under the guise of diversifying New York’s teachers,” she said.

If we really want to get rid of any stigma surrounding minorities; if we really want to contribute to minority students’ success—New York State needs to do it the right way. Whether they’re white, black or purple: give students the tools they need to succeed, and they will amaze.

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