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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
tion and Certification, 2000b). Most professions, including medicine, architecture, psychology, and engineering, require more extensive supervised clinical experience (Darling-Hammond et al., 1999).
As noted earlier, in addition to these requirements, 42 states require candidates to pass one or more tests of basic skills, general knowledge, subject matter knowledge, or teaching knowledge (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b). Among states that use tests, the type and number of required tests run the gamut from one test of basic skills (e.g., Alabama) to four different types of tests, including basic skills, subject matter knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge tests (e.g., Michigan, Colorado). Within types, more than one test may be required. For example, California requires two subject matter tests for high school teachers who have not completed an approved subject matter program.
In some states, licensing tests are tied to the granting of a degree; in others they are not. In states where tests are not required for graduation, candidates can successfully complete a teacher preparation program and graduate, but if they fail a state’s test(s), they cannot get a standard teaching license. In states where tests are required for degree conferral, candidates can successfully complete all of the institutional requirements for graduation but leave without a degree because they fail the licensing test; these candidates also lack a license to teach in that state’s public school system.
States’ Alternative Preparation Programs for Teachers
A majority of states also have supplemented college and university preparation programs for licensure with postbaccalaureate alternative routes for candidates to enter teaching from other fields (Feistritzer and Chester, 2000). These routes are called alternative because they provide options to the four-year undergraduate programs that were the only routes to licensure in many states until the 1990s. Although varying greatly, these routes generally include an entrance requirement for content expertise and experience in the field. The programs range from requiring a preservice program of teacher education (usually 9 to 15 months) to programs offering 3 to 12 weeks of instruction prior to granting a limited teaching license, such as an intern license or a temporary or emergency license, while other requirements are completed. Some states also provide individually tailored programs based on reviews of the academic and professional backgrounds of each candidate. Alternative programs are provided by states, local districts, or institutions of higher education. In most cases, teachers from these programs are required to pass the same tests as those who become teachers through traditional routes.