Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam results show dramatic racial disparity

Categories: Education
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Image by Tatiana Craine -- classroom photo from Cherice on Flickr
For mysterious reasons, blacks are having a much tougher time passing the Teaching Licensure Exam than whites.
These days, aspiring Minnesota teachers have to pass the Teaching Licensure Exam in order to get a license. That's reasonable enough, but the exam's results suggest the process isn't working as it should.

SEE ALSO: Twin Cities has far and away the largest black-white unemployment gap, says new study

State data shows blacks are having a disproportionately tough time passing the exam, leading some to believe the exam is racially and/or ethnically biased.

From MPR:
According to state data, 76 percent of all teacher candidates have passed the basic skills math test since 2010. But only 26 percent of African American and 45 percent of Hispanic teachers passed.

On the reading test, 77 percent of all test-takers have passed; only 37-percent of blacks have and 49 percent of Hispanics have, while 79 percent of whites passed. On the writing test, 77 percent of all candidates have passed, including 79 percent of whites, but only 35 percent of blacks passed.
Beyond reworking the test itself, the racial and ethnic disparities reflected in the results and its possible consequences have legislators contemplating changes to the way the Teacher Licensure Exam process works. More from MPR:
Proposed changes at the state Legislature include carving out exceptions to the test requirement for non-native English speakers who teach in language immersion programs. They would have three years to pass the test, the way the old law allowed [prospective teachers no longer have a grace period to pass the test -- now they must pass it before they get their license]. An administrator from Minnetonka told lawmakers Tuesday that his district could lose 12 immersion teachers next year because they haven't passed the test.
This instantiation of the achievement gap is quite puzzling, considering prospective teachers who happen to be black presumably have earned college degrees equivalent to those earned by white prospective teachers. Unless, of course, the test really is easier for whites for some reason. If that's the case, it seems reworking the test to eradicate its bias should be a top priority for state education officials.


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18 comments
IBNNNEWS
IBNNNEWS

I took the MTLE two weeks ago. I did okay but the test is not culturally relevant. This test is why Minnesota gets teachers who continue to push the achievement gap up. My first question was about Hitler and his move across Europe. Sorry, I'm not a Nazi scholar, nor do I intend to celebrate Hitler to my students. (Don Allen)

rascalmcdoogle
rascalmcdoogle

Teachers complaining since they cannot pass a test....try studying more like the students they teach will need to.

senatortombstone
senatortombstone

Teachers who cannot pass proficiency examinations for the subjects they teach should be terminated. This suggestion is not borne out of malice, but out of concern for the students, who are the victims of this shoddy teaching, as their futures are at stake. How did the teachers who failed these tests ever get to become teachers in the first place? Where was the quality control? The racial component, that more blacks and Hispanics have failed these examinations than have whites, even when they all have had similar education, can probably be attributed to affirmative action in hiring and grade inflation. The fact that only 79.00% of whites passed the examinations is probably due to the fact the teachers in general tend to come from the bottom of the academic barrel. Are the tests racists? Of course not. We can be disappointed by the results, but we should not be surprised by them.I just did a quick google search for “average teacher IQ,” and found that the average IQ of K-12 teachers to be 107. Well, assuming that the proficiency examination is designed so that the average teacher can pass it, then we can assume (but not be totally certain) that any teacher who did not pass it, does not have an IQ of 107. Well, since the average IQ of whites is about 100, 90 for Hispanics, 85 for African-American blacks, and 70 for Sub-Saharan Africans; it is not surprising that fewer Hispanics and even fewer blacks passed the proficiency examinations than did whites. The results from these examinations confirm what we already know about intelligence distribution amongst the races. Notice that the results of Asian teachers were not mentioned? This is probably because (especially East) Asians tend to have a higher average IQ than whites, and more Asian teachers probably passed these examinations than did whites. This is a common tactic amongst the media and politicians when trying to blame racial disparities of this nature on racism. Only mention blacks and Hispanics and leave out the Asians, so that the disparities can be blamed on white racism. The cultural bias explanation does not make any sense, unless the tests are designed by Asians, in order to give other Asians an advantage over whites, blacks, and Hispanics. But even if that were the case - and it is not, then the tests still confirm that whites on average are more intelligent than blacks and Hispanics. Blacks and whites, for the most part, share the same culture, so they should be on even footing and equally disadvantaged on a test designed to produce top scores for Asians, if they were truly of equal average intelligence. Hispanics come from a more distinctly different culture and would either be at a greater or lesser disadvantage than both whites and blacks. Tests that are biased in favor Asians should produce one of the following results from first to worst: Asians, whites and blacks tied, Hispanics; or: Asians, Hispanics, whites and blacks tied. But the fact that these tests produce the following results: Asians, whites, Hispanics, blacks; is proof enough that these tests are about as culturally neutral as possible and that the results are accurate.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

I don't want to lower teaching licensure requirements.  But I don't trust standardized tests, either.  I think they are having a very bad effect on education in America.  When I was a kid, we used to criticize European schooling because they put such an over-emphasis on high-stakes testing, and I think we were right.

I also have my doubts about standardized tests because I took them as a high-school student, and I was a terrible student.  I got a 780 verbal and a 720 math on the SAT (there were only two parts then, so a 1500/1600), which was a great score, and I was still mildly under the effects of some illicit recreational hallucinogenics when I took the test.  Bad student, right?  I also got a 4 out of 5 on an AP test for a class I didn't take, and once I got 49 out of 50 correct on a true/false test on a book I had never read.

Did I do all this because I'm so smart?  No.  There's an method to how these things are put together, and somehow I've always had the ability to see the pattern.  I didn't deserve any of those scores, and my subsequent performance in school proved it.  I'm a great test-taker.  Too bad there's no meaningful pursuit in life that puts that skill to good use.

Standardized tests are a bad way to tell anything about anybody, except whether or not you're good at taking standardized tests.  We need better ways to tell who is likely to be a good teacher.  We need more good, dedicated teachers.  Most of the ones we have now are good; you don't stay at a job that hard that pays that little if you don't really have a calling; but the more the merrier.

Melissa Peterson
Melissa Peterson

It's racist to say its racist. I wish that word was banned. Because its now reversed. I refuse to apologize for being a Christian conservative gun-owning German.

Melissa Peterson
Melissa Peterson

So lower the standards? I don't think so. If you fail, study harder...duh. That's why some people have better jobs than I others. Not everyone is going to win.

jason.carle
jason.carle

I simply can not believe that anyone would consider lowering the standards to pass a test required to become a teacher...  We really are becoming a dumber country, and this is why.  If I had to guess I would guess that the disparity starts at a much younger age, continues through school all the way to the Teacher licensing exam.  Why?  Because certain cultures value education less than others, as a general rule.  There certainly are exceptions, but lowering the standards or assuming a test is racist is nonsense.

dealwithit
dealwithit

Sorry but I'd rather not have idiots teaching out future generations.There has to be a set standard.

United64
United64

Here is a thought, quit lowering expectations for a group of people, African American, Hispanics, etc. and this might not happen. Why would you want to make this test easier, I don't understand how reading or math is racially biased. You keep altering ways to level the playing field it is making things worse instead of better. Why make a test easier for people who are supposed to be instructing kids on the topics they are failing at?  PC is killing this country. 

Matt Edgar
Matt Edgar

I'm currently wrapping up my final tests and it has been expensive and grueling emotionally. I know people who are great at tests. but terrible teachers and vice versa. I saw scrap the whole basic skills part of the MTLE (which don't actually reflect basic teaching or writing, reading or math skills unless you took them in college). There should be a review of your teaching style, not how well you take a test.

Martha Rigby
Martha Rigby

hmmmmm...would love to hear more about the content of the test

zatarra
zatarra

math is racist, got it.  

MotherJones
MotherJones

@jason.carle But as the author of this blog stated, "Unless, of course, the test really is easier for whites for some reason. If that's the case, it seems reworking the test to eradicate its bias should be a top priority for state education officials."

Last I heard mathematics is a universal language. It has nothing to do with race. 1+1=2. If whites are more adept at math, and if they attended the same Universities that minorities do, it seems to me that the whole problem has nothing to do with racial bias, but rather these same Universities are pumping out (unearned) degrees to minorities to adhere to a "minority graduation rate" to satisfy Minnesota's minority graduation rate status quo. In other words, people are handed out degrees which they have never earned, but are awarded simply due to the color of their skin. This, in my humble opinion, is reverse racism.   

Truth_Teller_1
Truth_Teller_1 topcommenter

I have made a more racially equal - check it out!

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