NYC To Pay $1.8 Billion Over Old ‘Racist’ Teaching Exam. But Blacks Performed Poorly On Newer Exams, Too
MANHATTAN - NY - June 13, 2023 - New York City Mayor Eric Adams is pictured during press conference at City Hall Rotunda Tuesday afternoon. During the press conference the Mayor announced a contract agreement with UFT.
Photo by Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News via Getty Images.

New York City will pay nearly $2 billion to black and Hispanic people who wanted to become teachers but failed the exam, settling a lawsuit that alleged that the disparate passage rates showed that the test was racist.

Some individuals who never worked as teachers will get more than $1 million each, and could even get pensions which will inflate the cost well beyond $1.8 billion, the New York Post reported. The Post interviewed 64-year-old Herman Grim, who will be paid $2,055,383 after failing the test “a lot.” He could not provide any examples of how the questions were racist.

One anonymous Brooklyn principal told The Post the city was “crazy” to settle the case because “The standards are the standards … To hire people who are not qualified and change the requirements because a certain group didn‘t pass the test is bulls**t.”

The settlement concerns the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, which prospective teachers took between 1993 and 1995. More than 90% of whites passed the test, while only 53% of blacks and even fewer Hispanics did.

But the idea that those statistics prove that the test was racist, rather than properly reflecting knowledge levels, is undercut by the results of the teaching exams used since. Most states use an exam called Praxis to credential their teachers.  According to a 2011 study co-written by the National Education Association teaching union, Praxis’ results were similar to the New York City test. “The largest differences exist for African-American test takers, with passing rates that are lower than White test takers by 35% or more,” the NEA study found.

The NEA said that’s because Praxis is also racist — but its own study did not support that, according to the book “Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Education.” “The results from our analyses were consistent with results from similar tests of academic skills, such as the SAT and ACT. That is, we found significant differences in average scores between test takers of different racial/ethnic subgroups,” the study said. The teaching exam also correlated with GPA, where blacks tended to have lower GPAs as well as teaching exam scores.

Nonetheless, by 2017, 12 states including New York had moved to a more subjective test called edTPA. That was designed to address claims that the other tests didn’t actually identify who would be good in the classroom, and allowed people to submit videos of themselves teaching. “But in New York State, black prospective teachers failed the edTPA at nearly twice the rate of whites and Hispanics,” the book found.

“In 2017, New York State scrapped its requirement that teachers must pass a literacy test ‘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,” the book said.

Teaching exams are notoriously easy, essentially measuring whether the teacher could pass the class she is teaching. Praxis’ creators said that “All of the content and skills in the three Praxis 1 tests … cover skills that do not exceed a high school level.”

“Race to the Bottom” said the fight to lower teaching standards amounted to viewing schools as a jobs program for adults even when it harmed children. “In 21 New York City schools, only 10 percent or fewer of fifth graders, even excluding immigrants who were still learning English, passed English language arts exams in 2019. Being taught to read by teachers who themselves cannot read is unlikely to correct this devastating statistic,” it said.

Teachers unions argue that it is important to have more minority teachers because blacks learn better when they have a black teacher. But “besides amounting to arguing for segregated classrooms, here, educators’ ineptitude at math is apparent. A large study often cited as showing a correlation between having a teacher of the same race and better test scores, based on a long-term analysis of black and white students in Florida, found that the improvement was 0.004 to 0.005 standard deviations for reading. Statistically, that means the effect is virtually meaningless,” “Race to the Bottom” found.

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