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Second version of NY teachers’ exam ruled ‘racist’ by judge

Judge Kimba Wood has, for the second time, ruled that New York State’s exam for prospective teachers is racially discriminatory.

The Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, or LAST-2, was judged “to fail minority teaching candidates at a higher rate than white candidates.”

The test was used from 2004-2012.

Wood had ruled in 2012 that the LAST-1, used from the early 90s through 2004, had a similar disparate impact.

The New York Times reports:

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.

The judge’s ruling only applies to New York City “but could have ramifications for the rest of the state.”

Possible compensation for those who failed the test remains to be seen. Some may even “be entitled to back pay.”

Both versions of the LAST are no longer in use in the state. The exam that has been administered, the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), has also been called into question by Judge Wood. A hearing on that test is due in late June.

You may recall that Judge Wood was President Bill Clinton’s second unsuccessful choice for Attorney General.

Like Clinton’s first pick Zoë Baird, Wood had her nomination withdrawn due to the controversy surrounding her hiring of an illegal immigrant.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.