Analysis: A May Day March to ‘Reclaim Schools’ — Previewing Teachers Unions’ Day of ‘Action’

Berner: How School Culture Drives Civic Knowledge and Shapes the Next Generation of Citizens

Pennington & Rotherham: Why California’s Bid to Kill Income Tax for Teachers Is a Terrible Idea

Braimah: 3 Ways to Think About School Choice Through the Lens of Equity and Diversity

Gray & Petrilli: 3 Ways That States Can Improve Low-Performing Schools Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

Hage & Tuthill: Private, Charter, Voucher—When School Reformers Unite to Give Families Diverse Choices, Kids Win

Williams: It’s Not What Trump’s Education Department Will Do That Should Worry Critics; It’s What It Won’t Do

Exclusive — The California Teachers Association Has a Whole Lot of Money to Burn: Here’s How It Spends It

Fisher: Making Equity a First Principle of the Personalized-Learning Era

Whitmire: In Bridging Charter-District Divide, Educators Collaborate to Make the Impossible Happen

Erquiaga: Why Trump’s ‘America First’ Budget Puts Children in Poverty Last

Litow: Revised Perkins Act Is Key to Getting Great Technical Programs Like P-TECH to More Needy Kids

Open Letter: Illinois’s Legislature Must Reject Bill That Creates Moratorium on New Chicago Charters

Arnett: Trump May Have Stripped Back Regulations on Teacher Preparation, but Many States Are Moving Forward

Analysis: My Union Has More Money Than Your Union

Hyslop: How the Every Student Succeeds Act Empowers States to Find Innovative Uses for Federal Funds

Chris Cerf: How Newark’s Public Schools — Both Traditional and Charter — Are Working Together to Lift All Boats

Korman: How ESSA Is Driving States to Create Education Transition Policies for Incarcerated Students

Whitmire: Is DeVos Still Planning a School Tour With Weingarten? Here’s the First Place They Should Go

Antonucci: Can Nevada’s Teachers Union Survive?

Arons: 3 Reasons New York Was Right to Drop Its Teacher Literacy Test

March 23, 2017

Elizabeth Arons
Elizabeth Arons

Elizabeth Arons is CEO of the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy.

Elizabeth Arons is CEO of the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy.
Talking Points

NY’s ending the teacher literacy test is actually good policy

NY’s teacher literacy test was not associated with better teaching or student gains

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

In a controversial decision, the New York State Department of Education last week removed the Academic Literacy Skills Test as a prerequisite to teacher certification. But before joining the cries that NYSED is “lowering standards,” let’s step back and look at the move in context.
Three major issues suggest themselves:
First, giving literacy tests to prospective teachers who graduated college shows that the state does not trust colleges and universities, including its own, to ensure that graduates are literate. The prospective teachers theoretically just spent four years or more demonstrating literacy skills. Are any other professionals required to take a literacy test after spending four years passing college courses that demand reading comprehension and writing skills? Is their college transcript merely a decoration?
Second, unless I am missing research associated with the test, it’s not clear that passing it correlates to greater productivity in student achievement once one is in the classroom as a teacher. Designing certification hoops for prospective teachers to jump through may make legislators and educators feel more responsible, but few if any of these hoops predict the teacher’s ability to improve student achievement.
Third, and most important, piling on certification requirements without changing any of the other educational levers (better pay for high performers, differentiated pay for critical shortage fields, strong supports for classroom teachers, etc.) only serves to strangle the pipeline that leads to teaching. Schools of Education and alternative pipelines (like Teach for America) are down 15–20 percent from past years, which is typical of what happens in a strengthening economy when careers other than teaching (with its nine-month salary) provide strong competition (with 12-month salaries).
School districts cannot compete on that playing field. Even affluent suburban districts struggle to find sufficient quality applicants; in critical shortage fields like math and science, the situation is desperate, with vacancies open all year.
So kudos to New York State for questioning the value of certification barriers that show little connection to actual classroom performance. In fact, what we should be discussing is national reciprocity for teachers with licensure portability. Who’s in?