The Boston Globe reported a few days ago that over half of the black and Hispanic teacher applicants who took state qualifying exams over the past decade failed to make the grade. (HatTip to reader Jian Li)
Since the start of the test nearly a decade ago, 52 percent of Hispanics and 54 percent of blacks failed the writing portion of the test compared to a 23 percent failure rate among white applicants.
Blacks and Hispanics also fall behind white applicants in other test subjects like English, history and math.
Education officials, as education officials are wont to do, point out the obvious.
Education officials say the gap is making it harder to bring more diversity to the state’s teaching ranks.
You can predict the responses to this sad and depressing news.
First, state officials wring their hands, look for alternate routes to certification.
Chris Anderson, chairman of the state Board of Education, said he’s willing to consider other ways of assessing teachers, as long as standards remain high.
“There’s no reason to have any barriers to quality teachers if we don’t need them,” [the barriers or the teachers? — jsr] Anderson told The Boston Sunday Globe. “At the same time, we need to have accountability and assurance that there are basic abilities for any new teacher in Massachusetts.”
Searching for “other ways of assessing teachers” besides checking their ability to read, write, and add/subtract reminds me of the effort that was made at one point when our daughter Jessie was in the Fairfax County, Va., schools to find “other ways of assessing” qualifications to enter the Gifted and Talented programs other than grades, testing, and IQ scores. “There are many ways to be gifted and talented,” someone told us once. Indeed. Perhaps teacher applicants in Massachusetts can be evaluated on their dancing ability.
I have a question about the use of any “other ways of assessing” teacher applicants. Would these “other ways” substitute for tests for all applicants or only for minority applicants? For all who fail the traditional tests or only for minority applicants who fail those tests?
I suppose the parents of Massachusetts should be reassured that the State Board of Education requires at least “basic abilities,” however they are determined.
That’s the state. From the education establishment comes an equally predictable response:
Some deans of education schools are raising questions about whether the lower results among minority applicants shows the tests are culturally biased and whether the quality of education that minority applicants receive is good enough.
From some of the applicants:
Some minority applicants say the tests includes questions that white applicants and those with liberal arts backgrounds can more readily identify with, such as questions about ancient literature or investing in the stock market.
I wonder how someone “identifies with” a math question.
And, inevitably, from the lawyers:
A Cambridge lawyer said he’s planning to file a class action lawsuit against the state Department of Education and the testing company on behalf of three minority teachers who failed the test multiple times.
One final point: it would appear that the Boston Globe could also do with some tests of its prospective reporters and editors. Look again at the quote just above: Some minority applicants say the tests includes….. If those applicants really did say “the tests includes,” they shouldn’t be teachers. But then, the reporter who wrote that sentence shouldn’t be a reporter and the editor who let it pass shouldn’t be an editor.
A journalist friend of mine comments:
Blame the copy editor! Reporters on deadline can be forgiven a typo (my fingers sometimes do things my brain didn’t intend), but the copy editor’s job is precisely to catch things like that.
Funny you should mention that. Just before posting I caught a similar subject-verb disagreement. As a result I’ve severely chastised my writer and given, somewhat awkwardly, a pat on the back to my copy editor….