California Teacher Testing

Teacher & Employment Testing

The long-standing legal challenge against the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST), the state’s licensing exam for public school teachers, will be heard by the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a majority of its members voted to set aside a 1999 procedural ruling that appeared to have ended the case. Lawyers for African American, Latino, and Asian American educators who brought the suit have charged that the CBEST is racially biased and not job-related. They also claim that less discriminatory methods exist to assure the public of teacher competence.


Though a trial judge agreed that the test had a significant disparate impact on minorities and encouraged the state to make modest changes in the exam, he ruled that it measured necessary skills better than alternatives. The full appeals court will now hear plaintiffs’ challenge to that conclusion.


Meanwhile, a report by the Applied Research Center in Oakland thoroughly debunks the CBEST. In Adverse Impact! How CBEST Fails the People of California, Harold Berlak analyzes the history of the test and exposes its adverse impact on people of color and on ensuring high quality teachers. He shows the test's lack of validity (for example, there is no relationship between the test and job performance). The report concludes with recommendations for reform, including legislative repeal of the CBEST.