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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
Although the percentage of graduates who pass initial licensure tests provides an entry point for evaluating an institution’s quality, simple comparisons among institutions based on their passing rates are difficult to interpret for many reasons. These include the fact that institutions have different educational missions and recruiting practices, their students have different entry-level qualifications, teacher education programs have different entry and exit testing requirements, and programs have different procedures for determining the institutional affiliations of their candidates. By themselves, passing rates on licensure tests do not provide adequate information on which to judge the quality of teacher education programs.
Simple comparisons of passing rates across states are misleading. Many states use different tests for initial licensure or set different passing scores on the same tests. States have different policies about when a test is given or what decisions it supports.
To fairly and accurately judge the quality of teacher education programs, federal and state officials need data on a wide variety of program characteristics from multiple sources. Other indicators of program quality might include assessment data for students in relation to course and program benchmarks, employer evaluations, and district or state evaluations of beginning teaching. Other indicators might include information on course requirements and course quality, measures of the amount and quality of field experiences, and evidence of opportunities to work with students with special learning needs and students with diverse backgrounds. Data on the qualifications of program faculty, the allocation of resources, and the adequacy of facilities might be considered. The qualifications of students at entry to teacher education programs also should be included.
States should not use passing rates on initial licensure tests as the sole basis for deciding whether their teacher education programs are low performing.
States should report multiple indicators of the quality of teacher preparation programs to federal officials in complying with Title II.
The federal government should not use passing rates on initial teacher licensing tests as the sole basis for comparing states or teacher education programs or for withholding funds, imposing other sanctions, or rewarding teacher education programs.
Federal officials should continue to collect the state and school data required by Title II but should not withhold funds from, otherwise sanction, or reward programs until a study is mounted of the multiple and varied data that might be used to judge the quality of teacher preparation and licensure.