The state should use a licensing test to verify that all new teachers meet its professional standards. This goal was not graded in 2017.
Pedagogy Test Requirement: Arkansas requires all new teachers to pass the applicable grade level pedagogy test from the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
series in order to attain licensure. In addition, preparation programs may also offer the edTPA performance assessment as an option. Beginning in Fall 2017, special education candidates are required to pass the Praxis II Special Education: Core Knowledge and Applications (5354) test.
Verify that commercially available tests of pedagogy actually align with state standards.
Arkansas should ensure that its selected test of professional knowledge measures the knowledge and skills the state expects new teachers to have.
Ensure that performance assessments provide a meaningful measure of new teachers' knowledge and skills.
Although Arkansas is commended for requiring all new teachers to pass a pedagogy test, the state should continue to collect data about the validity of the edTPA. Additional research is needed to determine how the edTPA compares with other teacher tests, as well as whether proficiency as measured by the assessment is predictive of teacher effectiveness.
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. Arkansas reiterated that all first-time licenses require pedagogy assessment that is aligned with Arkansas State Standards and with the educator's grade span. The state then listed the test for the applicable grade level from the Praxis II Principles of Learning series of pedagogy tests. These tests are required by the state for the early childhood through secondary licenses as well as special education.
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 content and pedagogy 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, effective means of communicating with children, efficient use of class time, effective questioning techniques, smooth classroom routines, the importance of feedback, means of engaging parents, the best methods for teaching reading as well as other subjects, appropriate use of technology, knowledge of testing and assessments, and the fundamentals of addressing individual learning challenges.
States should not use tests meant 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.
Performance assessments are an important step in the right direction. Increasing numbers of states are adopting performance assessments to evaluate teacher candidates' pedagogy before an initial license is granted. A performance assessment can be of much more value than a traditional multiple choice test. However, states need to make sure that such tests are technically sound, especially given the significant resources that it takes to administer and score performance assessments. The past track record on similar assessments is mixed at best. The two states that required the Praxis III performance-based assessment reported pass rates of about 99 percent. A test that nearly every aspiring teacher passes is of questionable value. Additional research is needed to determine how the next generation of performance assessments, including the edTPA, compares to other teacher tests as well as whether the test's scores are predictive of student achievement.