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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
beginning of this chapter, policy and practice on teacher licensure testing in the United States are nascent and evolving. Education policy makers and practitioners are hard at work implementing broad education reforms and reform in teacher development, assessment, and support. Policy and practice are changing faster than their effects can be examined. Present programs have not been stable long enough to be examined for their intended and unintended effects. Hence, the data the committee consulted regarding current programs and policies are incomplete.
Furthermore, researchers hold differing views on the evidence that is relevant, necessary, and sufficient to judge the appropriateness and technical quality of teacher licensure tests. Some view currently collected data on the technical characteristics of licensure tests as sufficient (Jaeger, 1999; Stoker and Impara, 1995; Popham, 1992); others do not (Haertel, 1991; Haney et al., 1987; Pullin, 1999; Sireci and Green, 2000). Some consider it impossible to collect data on the relationships between initial teacher licensure tests and teacher competence; others consider it difficult but not impossible. Research is hampered by the difficulty of defining and constructing measures of teacher competence, the difficulty of defining and constructing measures of minimally competent beginning teaching, and the absence of information on teaching proficiency for many individuals who fail licensing tests.
The paucity of data and these methodological challenges made the committee’s examination of teacher licensure testing difficult. There were a number of questions the committee wanted to answer but could not, either because they were beyond the scope of this study, the evidentiary base was inconclusive, or the committee’s time and resources were insufficient. These included questions about:
whether current tests really separate out competent from incompetent beginning teachers;
whether present tests and passing scores are too easy or too hard;
whether current licensure requirements make sense across the different levels of schooling (K-5, 6–8, 9–12) and subject areas;
whether there is as much variation across states in the knowledge and skills needed to be minimally competent as differences in state passing scores suggest;
whether initial teacher licensure tests appropriately or inappropriately limit supply, both in the aggregate and for minority candidates; and
whether teacher licensure systems should be centralized to consolidate states’ development resources and allow candidates to more easily move across states.
The committee poses these as questions to the field.
This report and its findings, conclusions, and recommendations represent