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How to Undermine Confidence in Teachers

If teachers are the most important in-school factor in learning, then the expected vote by New York State's Board of Regents to eliminate the Academic Literacy Skills Test for licensing is counterproductive ("Will New York open the door to teachers who can't read?" New York Post, Mar. 6).

When reformers point to Finland as a model for improving the quality of instruction, they often cite the high bar for entrance into the profession there.  It's one important reason that students perform so well on tests of international competition.  But when given an opportunity to emulate Finland, New York State is doing just the opposite.

The test in question measures basic competency in reading and writing. Why is that low bar being lowered even further?  Apparently, it's an attempt to make it easier for minority teachers to pass.  In 2013-14, just 48 percent of black and 56 percent of Hispanics passed the literacy test.  That compared with 75 percent of whites.

This erosion of entry standards, however, is not limited to New York State.  For example, certification in Texas can be obtained online by anyone with a bachelor's degree, a 2.5 GPA and a check for $4,500 to enroll in A+ Texas Teachers.  That makes a mockery of licensing and undermines confidence in the state's teachers.

I support diversity in the teaching force, but not when it is achieved by shortcuts that shortchange the very students it is supposed to help.  How well served are black and Hispanic students if their teachers - of any color - lack basic reading and writing skills, or have never set foot in a public school classroom?

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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