When the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, which was required to teach in New York City, disproportionately weeded out black and Hispanic teachers, a federal judge ruled it was discriminatory (“Judgements over discriminatory NYC teachers exam raise possibility of $3 billion case,” New York Daily News, Mar. 28). The decision meant that up to $3 billion could be awarded to those teachers.
If the exam could be shown to have little relevance to the ability of teachers to be effective in the classroom, that would be one thing. (That was the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. in 1971 when it held that test results must be reasonably related to the job.)
But to label the exam discriminatory solely because fewer black and Hispanic teachers passed than whites and Asians is contrary to what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ricci v. DeStefano in 2009. In that landmark case, the high court decided that although white firefighters scored higher than minority firefighters, the City of Grand Haven, Conn. had no right to decertify the exam results. If it were allowed to do so, the white firefighters would be the victims of reverse discrimination.
There will always be differences in outcomes on all exams that have nothing to do with discrimination. They may be due to the fact that some test takers study harder or are smarter than others. The same thing holds true for the teachers’ exam in New York City. Just because black and Hispanic test takers did not score as high as white and Asian test takers is no reason to throw out the results.
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