(Washington, D.C.) – Tests and Teaching Quality: Interim Report released today by the National Research Council adds little to the national discussion of teacher licensing exams. At best, it reinforces the expressed in our Spring 1999 report, Not Good Enough: A Content Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations, that the tests, where they exist, of the subject area knowledge of prospective teachers are too weak to guarantee that teachers have the content that they need to teach students to high standards. That said, we must take strong exception to NRC’s finding #5 that:
“Test instruments, pass/fail rates, and other licensing requirements and policies that result in large differences in eventual passing rates among racial/ethnic groups pose problems for schools that seek to have a diverse teaching force” (page 5, Tests and Teaching Quality).
As we said last year in Not Good Enough, “ …we reject categorically the assertion that higher standards inevitably mean fewer minority teachers. Underneath that argument is a thinly veiled suggestion that people of color are somehow unable to meet high standards. Yet all of our experience suggests just the opposite: minority and low-income students, including education students, can meet high standards if they are taught to high standards” (Page 1, Not Good Enough).
Beyond the deeply disturbing implications of their fifth finding, we do find some common ground with NRC. The NRC report questions the value of current teacher licensing examinations, as do we. Our analysis of the widely used subject area tests and their passing scores lead us to conclude that these tests only exclude “the weakest of the weak” teacher candidates from the classroom. The NRC seems to believe that questions about the value of these tests should give reason for pause and further study. We, on the other hand, believe that the stakes for the children who are in school today are just too high to allow for more hand wringing delay. We must begin now establishing higher standards for entry into the field of teaching and licensure examinations that reflect those standards.
Note: Though you may have received a copy of Not Good Enough last year, we are enclosing another copy along with our original press release.