Assessing Professional Knowledge

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

2011: Assessing Professional Knowledge

The state should use a licensing test to verify that all new teachers meet its professional standards.

Best practices

Twenty-three states meet this goal, and although NCTQ has not singled out one state's policies for "best practice" honors, it additionally commends the nine states (Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas) that utilize their own assessments to measure pedagogical knowledge and skills.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Assessing Professional Knowledge national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:
Best practice 0


Meets goal 23


Nearly meets goal 2


Meets goal in part 3


Meets a small part of goal 5


Does not meet goal 18


Do states measure candidates’ professional knowledge of teaching and learning?

Figure details

Yes. State requires performance test as a condition of licensure.: AR, AZ, CA, DC, FL, IL, KS, KY, LA, ME, MN, MS, ND, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, WV

Yes. State requires traditional pedagogy test as a condition of licensure.:

Yes. State requires either a performance test or a traditional pedagogy test as a condition of initial licensure.:

Partially. State requires performance or pedagogy tests only for certain candidates.: CT, ID, IN, MD, MO, NC, PA, UT, WY

No. State requires no performance or pedagogy test.: AK, AL, CO, DE, GA, HI, IA, MA, MI, MT, NE, NH, NJ, OR, VA, VT, WA, WI

UT: Not required until teacher advances from a Level One to a Level Two license.

How we graded

A good pedagogy test puts teeth in states' professional standards.

In order to ensure that the state is licensing only teachers who meet its expectations, all standards must be testable. State standards that cannot be assessed in a practical and cost-effective manner have no value. Examples of knowledge that can be tested include the basic elements of good instruction, how to communicate effectively with children, how to use class time efficiently, effective questioning techniques, establishing smooth classroom routines, the importance of feedback, engaging parents, the best methods for teaching reading as well as other subjects, appropriate use of technology, knowledge of testing and the fundamentals of addressing individual learning challenges.

States use too many tests to measure new teachers' professional knowledge that utterly fail to do so, either because the passing score is set so low that anyone—even those who have not had professional preparation—can pass or because one can discern the "right" answer on an item simply by the way it is written.

Research rationale

For evidence of the importance of pedagogy tests in improving student achievement, see C. Clotfelter, H.Ladd and J.Vigdor, "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?"  Working Paper 2, Calder Institute (2007).

For further information regarding the use of performance assessments and the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC) in California and other states see L. Darling-Hammond, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: How Teacher Performance Assessments Can Measure and Improve Teaching" Center for American Progress (2010). 

For a perspectives on the issues with teaching dispositions, see W. Damon, "Personality Test: The dispositional dispute in teacher preparation today and what to do about it" in Arresting Insights in Education Vol.2 No. 3 (2005);  J. Gershman, "'Disposition' Emerges as Issue at Brooklyn College," New York Sun, May 2005.

For evidence on the low passing scores required by states on pedagogy tests, see the U.S. Department of Education's Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality (2010). Also see K. Walsh "A Candidate-Centered Model for Teacher Preparation and Licensure" in A Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom (Hess, Rotherham and Walsh, eds.) (2004)

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