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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
of candidates in each of the first-time and repeating groups in a reporting year is likely to be related to the institution’s overall passing rate. Differences in their proportions across institutions will make passing rate data difficult to compare.
The data collection and interpretation problems posed by Title II are not insubstantial. On their own, initial licensure tests fall short as indicators of program quality. In complying with Title II, test score information should be supplemented with other information about the characteristics and quality of programs. The U.S. Department of Education (2000b) suggests that data on other measures be reported, including demographic data on teacher education students and program completers, job placement rates in fields of eligibility, numbers of completers with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification, and information on the goals of teacher education programs. Other supplementary indicators might include data on the entry-level academic characteristics of teacher education students and program completers, job retention rates for graduates, numbers of placements in high-need schools and fields, and employer evaluations.
The Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants for States and Partnerships was enacted to achieve four goals: to improve student achievement; to improve the quality of the current and future teaching forces by improving the preparation of prospective teachers and enhancing professional development activities; to hold institutions of higher education accountable for preparing teachers who have the necessary skills and are highly competent in the academic content areas in which they plan to teach; and to recruit highly qualified individuals, including individuals from other occupations, into the teaching force.
Given its analysis of the objectives and requirements of the law, the committee concludes that:
It is reasonable to hold teacher education institutions accountable for the quality of teacher preparation programs.
By their design and as currently used, initial teacher licensure tests fall short of the intended policy goals for their use as accountability tools and as levers for improving teacher preparation and licensing programs. The public reporting and accountability provisions of Title II may encourage erroneous conclusions about the quality of teacher preparation.
Although the percentage of graduates who pass initial licensure tests provides an entry point for evaluating an institution’s quality, simple comparisons among institutions based on their passing rates are difficult to interpret for many reasons. These include the fact that institutions have different educational missions and recruiting practices, their students have different entry-level qualifications, teacher education programs have dif-