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Controversy: Teacher Knowledge Vs. Teacher Diversity

image from i.qkme.meThe big story of the week so far (in Illinois, at least) seems to be complaints expressed by the state teachers union at a recent state board of education meeting about the new(ish) TAP test for teacher candidates, whose rigor is much higher and whose adoption has led to a decrease in overall and race-specific pass rates.

"Sixty percent of African-Americans used to pass the TAP, according to WBEZ. "Now it’s 17 percent. For Hispanics, the pass rate has dropped from 70 percent, to 22 percent."

As do most of these kinds of stories, the WBEZ Chicago Public Radio story about the new test's impact (Push for teacher quality in Illinois takes toll on minority candidates) focuses largely on the impact of the test on teacher diversity, and about the emotional plight of minority candidates who want to teach but can't pass the test. Ditto for the follow-up segment (Testing teachers causes unexpected racial division).

There's much less attention on the reality that the previous test was much too easy, that too many teachers lack basic (college sophomore) reading writing and math skills, or that teachers can take the test multiple times, or submit ACT or other scores, and that the WBEZ reporter who took the test appeared to have no problem passing it.

Not everyone has responded predictably to the news, however.  "Do we need teachers who look like our students?" asks Chicago teacher and blogger Ray Salazar.  "Only if they know their content, only if they can teach and engage students, only if they have the social skills to maneuver through class and generational differences, only if they’re focused on students and not on themselves. Being brown and college-degreed and passionate is not enough."

For journalists and others, the fundamental question is whether our primary sympathies and concerns should rest with the teachers, individually and collectively, or with the students and the overall health of the institutions in which teachers work (ie, schools).

Image via Quickmeme

Comments

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I have a personal attachment to this story being a white teacher in a majority black school district. My district is constantly stating that everything they do/say is "all for the children." Beside the fact that we all know that is complete hogwash, if a school district exists FOR the students then the skin color of the teacher really shouldn't matter as long as that teacher has the knowledge base, managerial skills, flexibility, and passion to run a classroom. I do not object to making it harder to become a teacher. Perhaps then outsiders will begin respecting our profession again.

It should be "hard" to become a teacher. Being a teacher has to be something an individual WANTS to do, not a job that is easy to get and pays the bills. The education programs in universities should be difficult to get into, the tests should be hard to pass, and people should have to put a lot of effort into becoming a teacher.
I believe diversity in schools is important, but not at the risk of having unqualified teachers. Maybe the tests could be altered to appeal to different styles of learning, teaching, test taking, but by no means made easier so a certain group can pass easily.

I love teachers. Especially those who enjoy their job. I have had many teachers of many races that were an influence on me. So its ridiculous to think that a teachers skin color matters. It is important for our schools to be diverse because the world we live in is diverse.
We should not settle for less qualified teachers just because they are the same color as the student. That is cheating our kids in receiving a great education. Lets think about how are we going to continue to train great teachers and pay them hire salaries so all of our children will benefit.

I think that becoming a teacher should be something that an individual is willing to work hard to become. Passing test , going to college, learning the psychological developments of child is used to help children become successful individuals. If teachers are not willing to do the work no matter what color they are maybe this is not the profession for them.I personally do not think that a race of a teacher is going to necessarily help students learn better.

I’m currently an education major and when I’m in class a teacher skins color does not cross my mind. A teacher skin color does not dictate if I’m going to pass the class or if they would be my favor teacher. I believe diversity in schools is important, but I also believe you have to work hard nothing is easy.
I do not believe it is an issue with the test but there may be an issue with that individual person education. Maybe that person was not taught properly and they should go get further educated

I feel that diversity in schools is very important. I am a student in college and I have professors that are of different races. I don't think skin color should matter when it comes to a student getting their education but I do agree that those who really want to become teachers in the near future should work super hard in accomplishing that goal. I don't understand why some say that a certain race of a teacher will help students learn better.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.