From Teacher Knowledge to Testing Standards in NJ: A Missing Link?

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Qualified math teacher candidates are hard to come by in any state and New Jersey is no exception. According to the state's department of education, only 58 percent of prospective secondary math teachers were able to pass the Praxis II state licensing exam in mathematics last year.

Despite the dismal pass rates in the Garden State , the Board of Education is still considering a courageous yet controversial move to raise the minimum passing scores on the Praxis II. New Jersey 's current passing score stands at a relatively respectable 137 out of a possible 200 points, compared to Colorado 's high of 156 and Idaho , Arkansas and Alabama 's lows all under 120.

This would be the second time since 2004 that the state raised the passing score. The state also raised the minimum GPA required for licensure from a 2.5 to a 2.75.

Though not everyone is on board with the proposed change, Assistant Commissioner Jay Doolan hopes the increased passing score would set higher standards for teachers and move New Jersey to the top tier of states requiring the Praxis II.

Considering that New Jersey is suffering from a shortage of math teachers, a dilemma emerges: with test performance in the subject area so low, raising the bar will likely reduce the already inadequate pool of licensed math teachers. On the other hand, absent state pressure to raise standards, it's unlikely that schools of education will take the steps they need to in order to raise teacher competency. NCTQ's upcoming study on the mathematics preparation of elementary teachers, set for release in late winter 2008, examines just this issue. Two of New Jersey 's teacher education programs will be included in the study.