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Judge Dismisses Suit Over Mass. Teacher Test

A federal district judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that the teacher-licensure test in Massachusetts discriminates against minorities and those whose second language is English.

U.S. Senior District Judge Edward F. Harrington, of Boston, dismissed the suit filed by three teachers who had failed the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure and thus were dismissed by the Boston school system in 2006. The teachers alleged in the suit against the state, the Boston district, and test-maker NCS Pearson Inc. that the tests had an illegal disparate impact on minority and ESL test-takers. On a literacy-skills portion of the MTEL, 39 percent of African-American test-takers passed, compared with a 75 percent pass rate of white test-takers.

In an Oct. 13 opinion in Alston v. Massachusetts, Judge Harrington granted the defendants motions to dismiss, largely on the grounds that the plaintiffs had failed to follow procedural steps with a state anti-discrimination agency and had waited too long after the 2006 dismissals to file the suits earlier this year.

In a brief bit of dicta, Judge Harrington scolded the plaintiffs for attacking the teacher test.

"A person who fails the bar examination does not practice law!" the judge said. "A competent teacher is one who has thorough knowledge of his subject and the faculty of communicating that knowledge effectively to his students. No student deserves to suffer an inferior education because he was exposed to a teacher less than qualified."

The plaintiffs should seek to "ameliorate their scholastic deficiencies rather than to seek to undermine the standards" of the teaching profession, the judge said.

The Boston Globe reports on the case here.

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