Introduction

As policy makers at the federal and state levels have moved in numerous ways over the past two decades to adopt reforms in education, one focus has been on the initial licensure of teachers. In particular, many states have increased the educational and academic requirements for prospective teachers, set new standards for approval of teacher education institutions, and added requirements that teachers demonstrate evidence of subject-matter knowledge or understanding of teaching and learning. A few states have incorporated the assessment of teachers ' classroom performance as a component of their complete licensure process.

Many policy makers have prescribed tests to measure the quality of teachers and teaching. The number of states requiring testing for entry into the teaching profession increased from 3 in 1977 to 44 in 1987. Currently, 41 states require tests for licensure, and some of the remaining states are considering adding such requirements.

The interest in testing teachers reflects Americans' historical faith in testing and skepticism about other methods of determining quality (Haney et al., 1987). At the same time, teacher licensure tests have been strongly criticized. Critics have charged that many of the tests fail to measure critical knowledge and skills in effective ways and that the use of inadequate tests may inappropriately affect the supply of well-qualified teachers and the preparation future teachers receive (Haertel, 1991; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996; Darling-Hammond et al., 1999).

The federal government recently raised the profile of licensure tests. Under the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 (P.L. 105-244), states are required to report the assessments used for licensing teachers, the standards that teacher-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 4
TESTS AND Teaching Quality: Interim Report Introduction As policy makers at the federal and state levels have moved in numerous ways over the past two decades to adopt reforms in education, one focus has been on the initial licensure of teachers. In particular, many states have increased the educational and academic requirements for prospective teachers, set new standards for approval of teacher education institutions, and added requirements that teachers demonstrate evidence of subject-matter knowledge or understanding of teaching and learning. A few states have incorporated the assessment of teachers ' classroom performance as a component of their complete licensure process. Many policy makers have prescribed tests to measure the quality of teachers and teaching. The number of states requiring testing for entry into the teaching profession increased from 3 in 1977 to 44 in 1987. Currently, 41 states require tests for licensure, and some of the remaining states are considering adding such requirements. The interest in testing teachers reflects Americans' historical faith in testing and skepticism about other methods of determining quality (Haney et al., 1987). At the same time, teacher licensure tests have been strongly criticized. Critics have charged that many of the tests fail to measure critical knowledge and skills in effective ways and that the use of inadequate tests may inappropriately affect the supply of well-qualified teachers and the preparation future teachers receive (Haertel, 1991; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996; Darling-Hammond et al., 1999). The federal government recently raised the profile of licensure tests. Under the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 (P.L. 105-244), states are required to report the assessments used for licensing teachers, the standards that teacher-

OCR for page 4
TESTS AND Teaching Quality: Interim Report candidates must meet in order to earn a license, and the pass rates on such tests for the graduates of each institution that educates teachers. The law also requires institutions to publish a “report card” that must include, among other information, pass rates on teacher licensure tests and a comparison of the institutional rates with state averages. Sponsors of the measure said that they intended it to hold teacher education institutions accountable for the education of prospective teachers. In the midst of this interest in testing and initiatives at the federal and state levels, the U.S. Department of Education asked the National Research Council (NRC) to study teacher testing. The Committee on Assessment and Teacher Quality was charged with providing guidance to the department and the states in analyzing and revising their systems for the initial licensure of teachers. This interim report covers the first 9 months of the committee's 20-month study. The committee interpreted its charge to call for an examination of the measurement, educational, and legal issues associated with teacher licensure testing. In its work thus far, the committee has focused on the measures used for initial licensure: those generally required for teachers before they enter the classroom. The committee acknowledges that some states have expanded their licensure systems to include assessments of teachers' performance. These measures will be examined in the committee's final report. The committee has begun to explore the current status of licensure testing and the literature on teacher licensure to assess what is known about existing systems. With limited time and resources, the committee was not able to conduct the extensive research that is needed to fully address many important questions about teaching and tests. The committee's next report will examine the issues covered here in greater depth and may recommend model systems for licensing beginning teachers.