The success rates for the first time in teaching license exams have been under wraps until now. View data


In many professions, including law and nursing, the percentage of applicants who pass a licensing exam on the first try is consistently reported. But these data for the teaching profession have not been made public so far.

New data shows that many aspiring teachers don’t pass their state’s licensing exam on the first try. And nearly a quarter of those who fail do not try again, thus canceling their plans to teach. This is even higher for people who have taken the color test: 30% do not retake the test after failing the first time.

First-time primary teacher licensing test pass rates and data disaggregated by race and ethnicity have been under wraps for more than two decades and were released on Wednesday by the National Teacher Quality Council., a Washington-based think tank that advocates for more rigorous teacher preparation. The NCTQ spent two years collecting data from state education departments, sometimes via public record requests, and ultimately obtained data from 38 states and the District of Columbia.

States typically require prospective primary school teachers to pass a licensing exam that covers the basics of the content they will teach their students: English / language arts, math, science, and social studies. Teacher candidates must pay to take and retake the exam, which can cost up to around $ 200.

“First-time pass rates may be a reasonable indicator of the quality of candidate preparation,” said Hannah Putnam, chief research officer at NCTQ and project leader for the report. And “whenever a teacher has to resume [the exam], it costs them time, money and anxiety. Many people who fail the test do not retake the test.

Other professions that require entrance exams, such as nursing, law, and accounting, are reporting first-time pass rates to monitor the quality of program preparation. The NCTQ and other experts argue that those in teacher training should also report this easily. (The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which represents teacher preparation programs, declined to comment prior to the release of the NCTQ report.)

“I am excited about this work not because I think it tells us something very specific about how to improve teacher education, but it points us in interesting directions and shows us how much it exists. variations between different institutions in [regards to] pass rates, ”said Dan Goldhaber, director of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research at the American Institutes for Research, which studies teacher licensing exams and presented the NCTQ report.

There are significant differences between teacher preparation programs within a single state: the NCTQ found an average gap of 56 percentage points between schools with the highest first-time pass rate and those with the highest first-time pass rate. having the lowest success rate. And six states – Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia – have at least one teacher preparation program where not a single candidate has passed their first try.

“When you start watching program by program the difference in probability [of passing the test], it opens the door to thinking about what the candidate gets from the program in terms of encouragement and additional help, ”Goldhaber said.

The Congress tried to “control” the quality of the programs

In 1998, the United States Congress passed Title II of the Higher Education Act to hold teacher education accountable. Teacher preparation programs were asked to report their pass rates on licensing exams, among other data. States were also required to rank their programs and provide additional information on the quality of teachers in the state.

“We were looking for a way to harness the quality of teacher preparation,” said Charles Barone, at the time the legislative director of Representative George Miller, a Democrat, who led much of that effort.

But many institutions reported 100 percent pass rates on teaching license tests. This is because they required candidates to pass the exam in order to complete their preparation program and they only reported data for graduates of the program.

“The data was indeed unnecessary,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ.

In 2008, the law was rewritten to include, among other measures, a requirement for programs to report the percentage of students who passed a single assessment. Unlike summary success rate data, this data is not limited to program graduates only. This more granular data is more useful, Putnam said, but still has limitations: “We don’t know how many people are passing it on. [on the first try], we don’t have data on race or ethnicity, we don’t know how many times people take [the exam]. “

Additionally, if a licensure test has multiple subtests, pass rates are reported at the subtest level, but not at the composite level. This masks the true percentage of people who fail the test overall, Putnam said.

Reporting a more comprehensive picture of pass rate data is standard in all other professions with licensing exams and should be seen as a “consumer protection mechanism” for teacher candidates, said Barone, who is now vice-president. chair of K-12 policy for the advocacy group. Education reform now. Applicants need to know whether the program they choose can successfully prepare graduates to take a mandatory test to enter class, he said.

“It’s a piece of the puzzle [for program quality], but it’s an important element, ”he said.

The higher education law, which is supposed to be renewed every five years, has not been reauthorized since 2008. Congress was considering an update last year. before the pandemic occurs. If lawmakers pick it up again next year, Barone said he hopes they will force states to collect and report pass rates for the first time.

“It seems obvious to me, and NCTQ has proven that it can be done,” he said.

Twelve states chose not to share their data with the NCTQ or provided only incomplete data. These are California, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and of Wisconsin. Walsh said one of the school leaders in those states refused to share the detailed data, saying, “We’re going to look bad.” (She declined to name the state.)

Experts debate the value of the licensing exam

The NCTQ says 20 states and DC have what the group considers a strong testing system, meaning that the licensing test is required for all applicants, is structured to score each content area separately, and that the minimum pass mark is aligned with what experts and practitioners recommend. In states with such strong testing systems, the average first attempt pass rate is 45%. But 79% of candidates ultimately pass the test.

In the 30 states with what the NCTQ considers a weaker testing system, the average first attempt pass rate is 76%, and 89% of applicants ultimately pass the test. However, the NCTQ warns that having inferior safeguards for entry into the profession means that new teachers may have gaps in their basic knowledge.

“We shouldn’t expect teachers to learn lessons the night before teaching them,” Putnam said.

Yet teacher licensing exams have been criticized as a barrier to the profession, especially for prospective teachers of color, who fail the test at higher rates than white applicants. As states and school districts struggle to attract teachers, some have questioned if license tests are needed.

This month, California policymakers said teacher candidates no longer have to take the state’s basic skills test or exams., which test reading, writing and math skills. Applicants can now bypass this requirement by taking relevant college-level courses.

“These tests are meant to accurately measure readiness to begin teacher preparation, not to be a barrier that prevents potentially excellent teachers from learning to teach,” said Mary Vixie Sandy, executive director of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, in a press release. “As alternatives to high-stakes testing, these measures will resize the role of testing and allow a wider and more diverse range of people to pursue careers in teaching. “

For the report, the NCTQ looked at available research on licensure testing and found that 11 studies found a statistically significant positive relationship between a teacher’s test scores and their effectiveness in the classroom. Two studies gave mixed results, one found no statistically significant relationship between testing and classroom performance, and another found a negative relationship between the California Basic Skills Test and student achievement. read.

It’s a compromise, Goldhaber said: “Licensure testing is likely to be a barrier to diversifying the teaching workforce. It’s bad. On the other hand, licensing tests are one of the only prerequisite measures of teacher effectiveness, that’s fine.

Still, Emery Petchauer, an associate professor of teacher education at Michigan State University who studies licensing exams, said research on licensing tests relies on a limited indicator of student learning – standardized test scores. – and does not take into account the full picture of teacher efficiency. For example, he said, licensing exams cannot measure how teachers advance equity in their classrooms or how they build relationships with students.

“Multiple data sources give us the best understanding of something,” said Petchauer, who was not involved in the NCTQ report. “I worry when a single high-stakes standardized test may trump other indicators of what a teacher knows and is able to do. “

Even so, since licensing exams are a requirement for entering the classroom, programs should better support their candidates so that they can pass the exam, he said.

NCTQ analysis found that programs with fewer students who receive Pell Scholarships, a measure of student financial need, tend to have higher first-time pass rates. But NCTQ found 161 institutions with relatively high percentages of Pell grant recipients where the first-time success rate is above the state average.

Walsh said, “We believe states should ask tough questions of institutions that have very low success rates for the first time. … We shouldn’t be afraid of this data. This data can help programs improve.


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