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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
As can be seen in Table 3–2, more states use tests of basic literacy, communication, and mathematics skills than any other type of test. Thirty-eight states require teacher candidates to meet minimum state requirements on a basic skills test before earning initial licenses (U.S. Department of Education, 2000a; National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b). Twenty-eight of these use Praxis I, the first part of the Praxis series (Educational Testing Service, 1999d), which measures basic knowledge in mathematics, reading, and writing. There are both paper-and-pencil and computer-based versions. Ten other states have chosen basic skills tests specifically developed for their teacher candidates. In nine of these states the basic skills test is designed by NES (U.S. Department of Education, 2000a; National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b). Five other states require candidates to fulfill the basic skills requirement before entering teacher education but give higher education institutions leeway in selecting which tests to use.
Fourteen states administer tests of general knowledge, which are generally tests of undergraduate-level liberal arts content. New York, for example, administers the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST) <www.highered.nysed.gov>. LAST covers scientific and mathematical processes, historical and social scientific awareness, artistic expression and the humanities, communication skills, and written analysis and expression. New Mexico gives the Teacher General Knowledge test, and Oklahoma requires the Oklahoma General Education Test. The Praxis II series includes Core Battery tests, which have three parts: General Knowledge, Professional Knowledge, and Communication Skills. The General Knowledge test includes social studies, mathematics, literature and fine arts, and science items. The Professional Knowledge and Communications Skills tests, which are tests of teaching skill, are described below.
Subject Matter Knowledge
Twenty-one states require teacher candidates to take one or more tests of subject matter knowledge (U.S. Department of Education, 2000a; National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b). As with the basic skills tests, states can choose from among several options for this purpose. The Praxis II series includes some 126 subject-area examinations, including accounting, biology, driver education, French, mathematics, physical education, and psychology (Educational Testing Service, 1999d). The states that use tests designed for them by NES also cover a range of subject areas (U.S.