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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
vidual growth plans that specify beginning teachers’ plans for learning more about particular teaching practices, school or district initiatives, or other teaching challenges.
Mentors are expected to be experienced teachers who, ideally, teach the same subject or grade level in the same building as the entry-year teacher. Mentors receive training in the PATHWISE Induction Program-Praxis III Version, and their service as mentor teachers can be part of their individual professional development plans that count toward licensure renewal.
The Praxis III assessment, which is designed to be used across content areas, employs three data collection methods: direct observation of classroom practice, written materials prepared by the beginning teacher describing the students and the instructional objectives, and interviews structured around classroom observations. As part of the assessment, the beginning teacher provides written documentation about the general classroom context and the students in the class. During the observation, assessors view the teacher’s practices and decisions in the classroom. Semistructured interviews with the beginning teacher before and after the observation provide assessors with an opportunity to hear the teacher reflect on his or her decisions and teaching practices and to evaluate the teacher’s skill in relating instructional decisions to contextual factors. Observers are trained in observation, interpretation, and scoring of the performance assessment data.
Praxis III has been piloted for seven years in Ohio but has not yet been used for making high-stakes licensure decision. In January 2000 the State Board of Education set passing scores on Praxis III. Since Praxis III has not yet been used operationally, the available research consists of content-related evidence of validity collected as part of the test development process. The content and knowledge base covered by the PATHWISE Induction Program-Praxis III was identified by ETS through an extensive series of studies that included job analyses, a review of the literature, and a compilation of teacher licensing requirements in all 50 states. Reports on the development work for Praxis III and PATHWISE are available through ETS (Dwyer, 1994; Wesley et al., 1993; Rosenfeld et al., 1992a; 1992b, 1992c).
School districts in Ohio are expected to develop and implement their own plans for entry-year programs in accordance with state guidelines and with financial support provided from the state. Several districts in Ohio have had comprehensive induction programs in place for a number of years. For example, the Cincinnati School District has had a peer review and induction program in place since 1985, although it is undergoing change to adapt to the new state requirements. Cincinnati’s program is mentioned here because it provides an example of a district developing its own induction and evaluation system and because it shares some common features with the system Ohio plans to implement statewide.
Cincinnati’s system has components aimed at teacher preparation, teacher