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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
another state. These states also had quite different passing standards and different percentages of minority candidates.
Analogous data are found for medical licensure tests (but because the same passing score is used nationwide, these data are less subject to concerns about misinterpretations of aggregated data). On the first part of the medical tests, a difference of 45 percentage points has been reported for initial passing rates of white and African American medical students, but the difference in their eventual passing rates dropped to 11 points. Similarly, the 25 percentage point difference in initial passing rates between these groups on the second part of the exam dropped to a 9-point difference in eventual passing rates (Case et al., 1996).
The initial and eventual passing rates for lawyers and physicians may be affected by their common use of intensive test preparation courses for these exams. Test preparation courses are less widely available for teacher licensure tests. There may be other differences between these doctoral-level licensing tests and teacher licensure tests that play out differently for minority and majority examinees.
The committee was able to obtain information on initial and eventual passing rates for teacher licensure tests from only two states—California and Connecticut. These two datasets avoid some of the interpretation problems posed by aggregating data across states. They also allow examination of group differences for candidates’ first attempts and for test takers’ later attempts. Eventual passing rates are important because they are determinative; they relate fairly directly to the licensure decision. Again, the initial rates are important too, since candidates who initially fail but eventually pass may experience delays and additional costs in securing a license.
Table 5–7 shows the number and percentage of candidates who passed the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST) on their first attempt in 1995/ 1996 and the percentage of the 1995/1996 cohort that passed the CBEST by the end of the 1998/1999 testing year. Table 5–9 provides analogous data for California’s Multiple Subjects Assessment for Teachers (MSAT) examination. First-time passing rates on the 1996/1997 test are given, along with passing rates for that cohort by 1998/1999. Tables 5–8 and 5–10 give group differences for these tests.
Table 5–7 shows that initial passing rates for 1995/1996 minority candidates on the CBEST exam were lower than for white examinees. The difference between African American and white initial passing rates was 38 percentage points. The gap between rates for Mexican Americans and whites was 28 percentage points, and the difference between Latinos/other Hispanics and whites was 22 percentage points. The passing rates for all groups increased after initially unsuccessful candidates took the test one or more additional times; and as the eventual rates show, the differences between passing rates for minority and majority groups decreased. The gap between African American and white candidates’ CBEST passing rates fell from 38 percentage points to 21. The gap