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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
mentioned earlier, there is not complete consensus in the field about these standards. Concerns with the standards have included challenges to the research base that supports the NCATE standards (Ballou and Podgursky, 1999) and issues about the breadth of the statements that define the standards (Richardson, 1994; Roth, 1996).
The breadth of the standards causes problems in developing assessments, as their broad nature leaves open a variety of interpretations (Roth, 1996). This makes it difficult to translate the standards into test specifications and to develop assessments of the intended skills. The ongoing development of content-specific standards by NBPTS and INTASC begins to address this issue. Also, it is not explicitly stated what level of performance the standards relate to—the ideal, normative, or minimum? A third concern relates to a teacher’s ability to demonstrate all of the behaviors denoted in the INTASC standards. As Richardson (1994:17) states: “Is it possible for a beginning teacher to attain the deep knowledge and understanding of classrooms, students, context, and subject matter implied in these principles?”
The next chapter shows how the field has attempted to develop teacher tests and assessments based on standards of teacher competence. The NBPTS assessments examine the performance of experienced teachers and are not the focus of this report. This report is about testing for initial licensure. Initial licensing tests are not intended to test for advanced levels of performance or for all of the knowledge and skills characteristic of accomplished teachers. They are intended to test the knowledge and skills of entry-level teachers. Building on the teaching competencies outlined in current teacher standards, Chapter 3 describes the procedures that states use to identify the knowledge and skills needed for minimally competent beginning practice. It examines current state tests and other initial licensure requirements.
Definitions of what teachers should know and be able to do have changed over time as society’s values have changed, and they will continue to do so. The job of teaching students to learn and use new information, develop and apply skills, and think critically is highly complex and demanding. Teachers need to motivate and engage all students, including students from varied backgrounds and those with different learning and language needs. In addition to being responsible for student learning, teachers are expected to provide safe and nurturing classrooms, serve as good role models, and to engage parents and the community in the business of their school. Teachers need a wide range of knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions to perform these many complex tasks.
The quality of teaching in a school depends on more than just individual teacher quality. It also depends on factors such as the amount and quality of