I’m looking forward to making this campaign about issues and ideas and not individuals, so I hesitate to mention my opponent, Alex Ybarra, by name. However, people keep asking me why I’m running, and Mr. Ybarra’s first bill during his short time in the Legislature is part of the reason. Briefly, the bill lowered standards for admission to teacher education programs by removing the requirement to pass a test called the WEST-B.
The B is for basic, and if you ask 100 teachers about it, 95 or more of them will tell you that if someone can’t pass the WEST-B, they have no business being a teacher. It measures a person’s abilities in reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic.
To be fair, the bill was written requested by the Professional Educators Standards Board (PESB), which noticed that non-white students have a lower passing rate on the test and concluded that the test was culturally biased. I’m pretty sure complex tests like the SAT or GRE are indeed culturally biased, but in this case it seems just as likely that WEST-B passing rates are evidence of how our education system is failing these students, and how other factors also make it difficult for these students to learn the skills necessary to become good teachers.
I’m a teacher, and 96% of my students are Hispanic/Latinx, so I definitely understand the need for more teachers who look like my students. In fact, many of my students would make excellent teachers, and it’s a career I often recommend to my best students. They would have no trouble passing the WEST-B. What might keep them from becoming teachers is a sense that teachers aren’t respected and aren’t paid as they should be. The Republican Party has done more than any other single organization to make teaching a less attractive career, but there’s no reason to believe Mr. Ybarra feels that way. Meanwhile, his party also consistently opposes affirmative action citing (unwarranted) concerns about declining standards — but this bill literally lowered standards.
The PESB only has one tool: lowering or raising standards. It’s great that they’re paying attention to teacher diversity, but this bill did not address the roots of the problem, and it may have made things worse.
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