have smaller pools of candidates from which to hire. This outcome poses problems for schools and districts in seeking a qualified and diverse teaching force. Currently, 13 percent of the teaching force is minority, while minority children make up 36 percent of the student population (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). There are many reasons to be concerned about the small numbers of minority teachers (Darling-Hammond and Sclan, 1996). The importance of minority teachers as role models for minority and majority students is one source of concern. Second, minority teachers can bring a special level of understanding to the experiences of their minority students and a perspective on school policies and practices that is important to include. Finally, minority teachers are more likely to teach in central cities and schools with large minority populations (Choy et al., 1993; National Education Association, 1992). Because minority teachers represent a relatively larger percentage of teacher applicants in these locations, a smaller pool of minority candidates could contribute to teacher shortages in these schools and districts.

There are different perspectives on whether these problems should be the focus of policy attention and, if so, what should be done about them. From a legal perspective, evidence of disparate outcomes does not, by itself, warrant changes in test content, passing scores, or procedures. While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that employment procedures that have a significant differential impact based on race, sex, or national origin must be justified by test users as being valid and consistent with business or educational necessity, court decisions have been inconsistent about whether the Civil Rights Act applies to teacher licensing tests. In two of three cases in which teacher testing programs were challenged on Title VII grounds, the courts upheld use of the tests (in South Carolina and California), ruling that evidence of the relevance of test content was meaningful and sound. Both courts ruled that the tests were consistent with business necessity and that valid alternatives with less disparate impacts were not available.2

In the third case, Alabama discontinued use of its teacher licensing test based on findings of both disparate impact and the failure of the test developer to meet technical standards for test development. The court pointed to concerns about content-related evidence of validity and to arbitrary standards for passing scores as reasons for overturning use of the test. These cases and other licensure and employment testing cases demonstrate that different passing rates do not, by themselves, signify unlawful practices. The lawfulness of licensure tests with disparate impact comes into question when validity cannot be demonstrated.


In its interim report (National Research Council, 2000), the committee reported the ruling in a case involving the California Basic Educational Skills Test (Association of Mexican American Educators v. California, 183, F.3d 12055, 1070–1071, 9th Cir., 1999). The court subsequently set aside its own decision and issued a new ruling on October 30, 2000 (Association of Mexican American Educators v. California, 231 F.3d 572, 9th Cir., en banc). The committee did not consider this ruling.

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