U.S. Appeals Court Reinstates

Teacher & Employment Testing
The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has unanimously ordered a federal district court to reconsider its prior decision to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that New York's teacher licensing test is racially biased and not job-related. The appeals court found that the judge who originally heard the case made errors of both fact and law.


The legal process began a decade ago when prospective teachers filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that the test discriminated against minorities (see Examiner, Summer 1996) and was not valid. New York admits that more than 90% of whites passed the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST) while pass rates for African American and Latino candidates ranged between 50% and 60%.


The trial court had found that even though the LAST had not been formally validated it was clearly related to the legitimate job requirements of classroom teachers. The Court of Appeals, however, concluded that a higher standard is required to assess the validity of an employment test and sent the case back for further review with the comment that "it is impossible for the test as a whole to be valid simply because one section is job-related."


The LAST is manufactured by National Evaluations Systems (NES), a firm that markets state-specific teacher licensing tests to compete with the national Praxis series of exams sold by the Educational Testing Service. NES' Alabama Teacher test was thrown out after a lawsuit demonstrated that some evidence claimed for its accuracy was fabricated. The federal judge in that case concluded that "the developer's procedures violated the minimum requirements for professional test development." NES also produces the controversial Massachusetts teacher licensing exam which included a section requiring test-takers to accurately transcribe a dictated portion of the Federalist Papers (see Examiner, Winter 1999). A National Academy of Science's panel investigating teacher testing criticized NES for refusing "to provide the committee with enough information about its exams to evaluate them"


In the New York case, the Court of Appeals also found that crucial documents regarding the validation of the LAST has been destroyed (or never kept) by NES "in contravention of the contractual document retention policy." The 48-page decision is posted at http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/.