One often-overlooked reason for the declining number of black teachers in Boston is the state’s unfair and unsound teacher licensure test (“Boston seeks diverse faculty,” Page A1, Jan. 20).
An independent expert panel appointed by the state studied the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure. It found that blacks and Hispanics passed the test much less often than whites. The report concluded that the state failed to document the test’s technical validity. It questioned whether the test actually measures what it claims to measure and can accurately identify inadequate aspiring teachers.
That is a general problem with educator licensing exams, according to the National Academy of Sciences. In fact, the tests may unfairly eliminate a higher percentage of qualified minority applicants.
The Massachusetts panel called on the state and its test contractor to follow the standards of the measurement profession. It recognized other issues, including too few black and Hispanics taking the test. Fear of failing the exam may dissuade strong minority teachers from even taking it.
That report came out in 2008. Nothing significant has changed.
Boston must work to open its teacher-recruitment pipeline.
At the same time, Massachusetts must overhaul how it evaluates prospective teachers so that the process is accurate and fair.