So we come to the difficult question. Should schools hire better teachers or would that be racist? The answer is, Yes, No, Maybe, Probably, and I’m Going to Sue.
Slowly but surely, a growing number of states are eyeing policies to select academically stronger individuals for their teaching programs as one avenue to improve the quality of new teachers.
Academically stronger individuals is the politically correct way of saying, “Teachers who can both read and write.” Their counterparts are the Differently Academically Abled who dominate the Chicago school system.
Underneath the attention such plans are attracting, though, run deep-seated fears about their potential consequences–particularly whether they will result in a K-12 workforce with fewer black and Latino teachers.
“When you’re working with instruments like SAT, ACT, GPA, which all have significant limitations, you have a responsibility to think about what the unintended consequences are,” said Mary Brabeck, the dean of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Mary, quite contrary, is talking about the consequences for teachers, not for students, because who really cares about them?
Proponents of the idea of raising teacher-preparation entry standards point to the practices of countries such as Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, which recruit superior academic candidates.
And all three countries are as multicultural as Seattle. No one is ever going to accuse a South Korean test of being racist.
The potential impact on candidates of color is more stark. Scores on the ACT from 2012 show that the mean score of African-American and Hispanic teachers, at 19 and 17, respectively, falls below the national mean score of 21, the score set as a goal in some proposals.
Basic-skills tests, such as those in the Educational Testing Services’ Praxis I series, also pose more challenges for some groups. According to ETS data collected from 2005 to 2009, black candidates scored about a standard deviation lower on such tests and Hispanic candidates by between a third and a half of a standard deviation lower.
Sorry South Korea, you win this one. Our teachers will go on enriching our diversity with their stupidity. Because having qualified teachers would have a disproportionate impact on unqualified teachers.
“Ratcheting up the bar will reduce the supply of minority teachers because of the general achievement gap that still leaves minorities with lower academic achievement–which is the problem we are trying to solve.”
So we can’t improve minority test scores without better teachers but we can’t get better teachers without higher standards and we can’t get better teachers because our school system is broken and we can’t fix our school system because we can’t get better teachers because that would be racist.