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Judge OKs Latest Teacher Test in N.Y. Despite Varying Pass Rates

A New York judge has ruled that the state's most recent literacy-skills exam for teachers doesn't discriminate against black and Hispanic candidates, even though they tend to score more poorly on it, because it measures skills necessary to the job, The New York Times and other news outlets are reporting.

The same judge, Kimba Wood, threw out two previous teacher tests, saying that they discriminated against candidates of color and didn't directly relate to job performance. 

A seething tension in teacher education right now concerns the push to raise standards for admission into the profession colliding with the need for a more diverse teaching force; as the Times explains, this ruling comes as a bit of a marker in this particular debate.

The test, known as the Academic Literacy Skills Test, measures reading and writing skills. It includes several skills, such as the ability to make text-dependent arguments, that are part of the Common Core State Standards. And, notably, the ALST is widely considered to be more difficult than the tests it replaced.

"New York State adopted new federal and state pedagogical and curricular standards that redefined the role of teacher. The ALST was derived from those standards, and thus appropriately designed to ensure that only those applicants who possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities to teach successfully may be hired to do so in New York's public schools," Judge Wood wrote.

Teacher colleges have pushed back on the exam, ultimately getting the state's Board of Regents to delay it as a requirement. Candidates won't have to pass it until June 2016. Until then, they can pass a different test or have their program attest that they've met the skills via coursework.

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