The data in Table 5–5 show substantial disparities between the passing rates of white and minority test takers on both tests. As Table 5–6 shows, the gap between African American and white test takers in 1998/1999 was 36 percentage points on the PPST reading test and 38 on the PLT (K-6) test. For Hispanics the differences were 21 percent on both tests. For Asian Americans the differences were 27 and 4 percent, respectively.
Like the data in Tables 5–3 and 5–4, these data have limitations. They are subject to two types of misinterpretation due to data aggregation. As already noted, they confound the scores for initial and repeat test takers. Group differences may be amplified by the fact that repeat test takers are more likely to be minority group members than majority candidates. The data also may misrepresent similarities and differences in passing rates across groups within states. These average passing rates combine data on passing rates across states using the same tests (based on states’ own passing scores, which vary). Some states have different demographic profiles. For example, Texas has a higher percentage of Hispanic candidates than many other states. One group may be more or less likely than another to test in states with relatively low passing scores. The combination of different passing scores and different demographic profiles across states makes direct comparisons of the passing rates across groups problematic.
Nonetheless, the pattern in these results is similar to the patterns observed between minority and majority examinees on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) assessments. Certification rates of slightly over 40 percent for white teachers have been reported (Bond, 1998). The reported certification rate for African American teachers was 11 percent, some 30 percent lower than the passing rate for white teachers. The NBPTS assessments are performance based and differ in format from the Praxis tests. The NBPTS assessments and the differences between them and conventional tests are described in Chapter 8.
The pattern in the Praxis results is also seen on licensure tests in certain other professions. For example, a national longitudinal study of graduates of American Bar Association-approved law schools found initial passing rates on the bar exam to be 61 percent for African Americans, 81 percent for Asians, 75 percent for Hispanics, and 92 percent for whites (Wightman, 1998). The corresponding eventual passing rates (after as many as six attempts) were 78, 92, 89, and 97 percent, respectively. Thus, the 31 percentage point difference between passing rates for African Americans and whites on initial testing shrank to a 19-point gap after as many as six attempts. The differences between Hispanics and whites dropped from 17 percentage points to 8. These data also must be interpreted with care, however. Like the Praxis results, data were aggregated across states that have very different passing scores and compositions of minority candidates. To illustrate, although states have different essay sections, almost all of them use the same multiple-choice test. On that test, minority students in one large western state had substantially lower scores than their white classmates. Nevertheless, they still had higher scores than the mostly white candidates in