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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
Title II requires teacher education programs to separately provide institutional reports on the quality of their teacher preparation efforts, including passing rates on state teacher licensure tests, comparisons of institutional results with state average passing rates, an indication of whether the institution has been designated as low performing, and information on teacher education requirements. All of this information is to be included in institutional publications, including promotional materials, school catalogs, and information sent to prospective employers. Low-performing institutions from which states have withdrawn approval or support are prohibited from enrolling students who receive financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. They are also ineligible to receive professional development funds under the law.
These requirements face opposition from states and higher education institutions (Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, 1999; American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 1999, 2000a; American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2000; Teacher Education Accreditation Council, 2000). Critics question whether the requirements of the law provide a sound basis for determining the quality of teacher education programs (Blair, 1999). They also question whether passing rates on initial teacher licensure tests should weigh so heavily in reports of program quality. They argue that teacher licensure tests provide only a limited view of program quality and that passing rates on licensure tests are not comparable across states and institutions (American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 2000a; American Council on Education, 1999).
COMMITTEE’S CHARGE AND STUDY METHODS
Because of these important efforts and the difficulty of this work, the U.S. Department of Education requested that the National Academy of Sciences investigate the technical, educational, and legal issues surrounding the use of current tests in licensing beginning teachers and to consider alternative measures of beginning competence. The Committee on Assessment and Teacher Quality was convened in 1999 under the aegis of the Board on Testing and Assessment. In response to its charge, the committee sought to answer three questions:
Do current initial teacher licensure tests measure beginning teacher competence appropriately and in a technically sound way?
Should teacher licensure tests be used to hold states and institutions of higher education accountable for the quality of teacher preparation and licensure?
How can innovative measures of beginning teacher competence help improve teacher quality?
This report presents the committee’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations.