The ruling is a departure from earlier decisions by the same judge, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court in Manhattan, in which she threw out past certification exams. It... symbolizes a significant moment in a long-running tug of war between two policy goals in education: making tests for new teachers more rigorous, and increasing the diversity of the nation’s teaching force...NY TimesThis is about a recent exam but the other cases are still in play. This earlier decisions by Kimba Wood affects a case that goes back 15 years. Ed Notes was a strong supporter of the teachers who were suing. Sometimes outcomes count. If a much higher proportion of certain ethnic groups fail an exam what do we do about it? In the case of the DOE they fired thousands of people who had struggled to pass. Look at the fireman exam which was thrown out due to the overwhelming white fire department as an example.
Why do some fail? The lack of a high level of literacy often due to poor neighborhood schools or language issues including certain dialects is the reason I would use. I heard it every day from some great teachers I worked with - a certain lack of facility with the language that is often needed to extract the fine tuning on exam questions.
When this issue hit the UFT in the late 90s, Marc Pessin, a well-known, controversial and often divisive figure since the 70s who ran for UFT President a few times with different caucuses he formed, formed yet another caucus, the Progressive Action Caucus (PAC), to focus on this issue and ran for President of the UFT in the 1999 election. With New Action having emerged from a merger of TAC and New Directions (the first caucus Pessin had led before they tossed him out in the late 80s) in 1995, PAC was considered a divisive threat to New Action's ability to win seats on the Exec Bd.
I agreed with the idea of forming a group to focus on the issue of so many people of color getting chopped from the system and supported their actions at the DA but did not think their running in the elections with their own slate helped their cause (they only got 2% of the vote.) I had teachers in my school affected by the same situation. One teacher failed 8 times and lost her job, but my principal loved her work and made her a para mentoring the teacher who replaced her. The former teacher gave up trying because her nerves were frayed by the process. Then 2 years later someone convinced her to go in and wing it - and she passed. So for bad test takers, emotions can screw you up.
Here is the Times article (thanks to Jeff Kaufman for sending it along).
Judge Rules New York Teacher Exam Did Not Discriminate Against Minorities