What happens when the professionals whose job it is to teach reading and writing are incapable of reading and writing themselves? New Yorkers are about to find out. On Saturday, the Associated Press reported that New York education officials have decided to do away with an exam designed to measure the basic writing and reading comprehension skills of prospective Teachers because a high percentage of black and Hispanic candidates are unable to pass the test.

Poverty and racism to blame says education expert

This week, New York's Board of Regents scrapped the literacy exam, known as the Academic Literacy Skills Test.

The literacy exam came under fire in 2015 after it was revealed that 54 percent of Hispanic teaching candidates and 59 percent of black candidates failed the exam on the first try. Conversely, only 36 percent of white candidates failed the test on their first try.

A federal judge later ruled that the literacy exam was not discriminatory, but some remain unconvinced.

According to Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, there are two reasons why black and Hispanic candidates perform so poorly on the Academic Literacy Skills Test-- poverty and racism. "There's not a test in the country that doesn't have disproportionate performance on the part of blacks and Latinos," Walsh stated to the Associated Press.

Is the exam racist?

The literacy exam features multiple-choice questions that test reading comprehension and a written section that tests writing ability. For $20, prospective teachers can take a practice exam offered by the state Department of Education before taking the real thing.

While this could help explain lower test scores among lower-income candidates, there is no evidence that test takers who completed the practice exam performed any better than those who didn't.

In fact, any high school graduate should be able to pass the test without difficulty. Ian Rosenblum, of the non-profit education advocacy group Education Trust, says that the exam is a 12th grade-level assessment of literacy.