2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should require undergraduate teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with good academic records.
The District of Columbia does not require aspiring teachers to pass a test of academic proficiency as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs, instead delaying its basic skills assessment until teacher candidates are ready to apply for licensure.
D.C. Municipal Regulations 5-1601
Require teacher candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, writing and mathematics skills as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates end up investing considerable resources in individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program and pass licensing tests. Candidates needing additional support should complete remediation prior to program entry, avoiding the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public tax dollars.
Require preparation programs to use a common test normed to the general college-bound population.
The basic skills tests in use in most states largely assess middle school-level skills. To improve the selectivity of teacher candidates—a common characteristic in countries whose students consistently outperform ours in international comparisons—the District of Columbia should require an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically competitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class, as well as facilitate program comparison.
Exempt candidates with comparable SAT or ACT scores.
The District of Columbia should waive the basic skills test requirement for candidates whose SAT or ACT scores demonstrate that they are in the top half of their class.
The District asserted that it has two pathways for accreditation of educator preparation units and state approval of educator preparation programs. The traditional pathway is primarily geared toward educator preparation programs housed at institutions of higher education, and the District does not require applicants to pass a basic skills test for program entry. However, independent of any District requirements, all institutions with educator preparation units accredited under the traditional pathway require that candidates pass the basic skills tests prior to being admitted.
The State-Only Post-Baccalaureate accreditation and program approval pathway is targeted primarily at organizations and local education agencies that prepare alternate route teacher candidates. The District contended that for this pathway, it requires the successful completion of the basic skills tests as a condition of entry.
Further, the District noted that effective January 1, 2011, licensure applicants and teacher preparation program participants may use SAT, ACT and/or GRE scores to meet the basic skills testing requirement.
The District should consider flipping its requirement, so that the basic skills test is required for traditional undergraduate preparation programs rather than for Post-Baccalaureate programs, whether traditional or alternative. As discussed in Goal 2-A, basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially those skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree. For graduate programs, the District should consider other measures of academic proficiency, such as the GRE.
Preparation programs should screen candidates for academic proficiency.
Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Research is also clear about the positive effects on student achievement of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds.
Yet too many states do not evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation, instead requiring basic skills tests for licensure. Basic skills tests were not intended to be licensing tests but rather were meant to be used at the point of admission into a teacher preparation program. These tests generally assess middle school-level skills, and states should use them as a minimal screening mechanism to ensure that teacher preparation programs do not admit anyone who is not prepared to do college-level work. Admitting prospective teachers who have not passed these tests may result in programs devoting limited time to basic skill remediation rather than preparation for the classroom.
Screening candidates at program entry protects the public's investment.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates, particularly programs at public institutions that are heavily subsidized by the state, invest considerable taxpayer dollars in the preparation of individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program and pass the licensing tests required to become a teacher. Candidates needing additional support should complete remediation prior to program entry, avoiding the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public tax dollars.
Tests normed to the general college-bound population would improve selectivity.
In addition to the fact that current basic skills tests generally measure only middle school-level skills, another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population. Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs.
For information on basic skills and certification test pass rates across the states, see Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality 2010 at:
For evidence that basic skills tests for teachers assess no more than middle school level skills, see "Not Good Enough: A Content Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations." Thinking K-16, The Education Trust (Spring 1999).
For evidence of the predictive power of college selectivity and SAT scores see C, Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, "Can You Recognize an Effective Teacher When You Recruit One?" National Bureau of Economic Research (2008). The authors also found college selectivity to have a positive impact on student achievement in North Carolina in "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" Calder Institute (2007).
For a discussion of teacher preparation program admissions policies in other countries, see OECD study Teacher Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2005). Also see Barber, M. and Mourshed, M., "How the World's Performing School System's Come out on Top." McKinsey & Company (2007).
For research supporting greater selectivity for teacher preparation programs see, Donald Boyd et al., "The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and Implications for Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 14021, June 2008; Drew Gitomer, "Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teacher Pool," Educational Testing Service, 2007; D. Goldhaber et al., NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Center for Reinventing Public Education working paper, 2004; A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review." Review of Educational Research, 2003; Grover Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," Paper presented at the White House Conference on Preparing Teachers, 2002; J. Kain and K. Singleton, "Equality of Education Revisited" New England Economic Review, May-June 1996; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," In H. Ladd (ed). Holding Schools Accountable. Brookings Institution, 1996; R. Greenwald et al. "The Effect of School Resources on Student Achievement" Review of Educational Research, 1996; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Do School and Teacher Characteristics Matter? Evidence From High School and Beyond" Economics of Education Review, 1994; Ron Ferguson, "Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation, 1991; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies" Economics of Education Review, 1986; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff development and school change," Teachers College Record, 1978; D. Winkler, "Educational Achievement and School Peer Composition," Journal of Human Resources, 1975; A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do schools make a difference?" American Economic Review, 1977; Eric Hanushek, "Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro-data," American Economic Review, 1971.