Analyst: Derek Kulnis
March 20 2017
The New York State Board of Regents has decided to eliminate the Academic Skills Literacy Test (ALST) as a requirement for teacher certification. The test was created in order to assess the ability of candidates to read and write analytically, and was part of a series of more rigorous licensing exams that were enacted under the previous chancellor Meryl H. Tisch.
Monica Disare notes in Chalkbeat that “teachers have had to clear four certification hurdles, including the literacy exam. The other exams ask teachers to demonstrate their teaching skills, content knowledge, and understanding of students with particular needs.”
There is debate about the elimination of the tests. Many officials and commenters contend that the examination has led to discrimination against prospective teachers who were black and Hispanic.
Kate Taylor explains in The New York Times that “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.”
Taylor notes that many deans of education schools supported the elimination of the exam and cites Michael Middleton, dean of Hunter College School of Education, who claimed that the test was an expensive, unnecessary burden on prospective teachers. Middleton also stated of the test that “It’s the one that looks like it’s the least related to the actual work that teachers do day to day.”
The tests have been the subject of debate nearly since their inception. Taylor notes that the test had been challenged in court, but that “a federal judge who had found two older certification tests to be discriminatory ruled in 2015that the ALST was not biased, because it measured skills that were necessary for teaching.”
Nevertheless, opposition to the test has been widespread. Disare explains that “state officials, and the state teachers union, also argued that the test was unnecessary since teachers already need to pass several other certification exams. In lieu of the using the ALST, the new measure approved by the Regents would modify a different certification exam to include additional assessment of reading and writing skills.”
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