Assessing Professional Knowledge : Maryland

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Assessing Professional Knowledge : Maryland results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MD-Assessing-Professional-Knowledge--6

Analysis of Maryland's policies

Maryland requires all new secondary and early childhood education teachers to pass a popular pedagogy test from the Praxis series in order to attain licensure.

Maryland is also part of the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) Consortium and began a pilot program in Spring 2011.

Citation

Recommendations for Maryland

Require that all new teachers pass a pedagogy test.
Maryland should verify that all new teachers meet professional standards through a test of professional standards for elementary teachers in addition to early childhood education and secondary teachers.

Ensure that performance assessments provide a meaningful measure of new teachers' knowledge and skills.
While Maryland is commended for considering the use of a performance-based assessment, the state should proceed with caution until additional data are available on the Teacher Performance Assessment. Additional research is needed to determine how the TPA compares to other teacher tests as well as whether the test's scores are predictive of student achievement. The track record on similar assessments is mixed at best. The two states that currently require the Praxis III performance-based assessment report pass rates of about 99 percent. Given that it takes significant resources to administer a performance-based assessment, a test that nearly every teacher passes is of questionable value.

State response to our analysis

Maryland asserted that teacher candidates are required to demonstrate pedagogical knowledge through assessments that are validated prior to adoption. Assessments are identified for consideration and adopted only after expert review by a validation panel comprised of individuals from local school systems and higher education knowledgeable in the area being considered. These panels evaluate the alignment of the proposed assessment with the state's standards. 

Maryland pointed out that not every certification area has a content-specific pedagogy assessment. When the state began adopting Praxis tests in 1998, ETS did not have a pedagogy test for each content area. Only recently has ETS introduced a "generic" pedagogy test: Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT). Maryland uses PLT: Early Childhood (adopted February 2007) and the PLT 7-12 for some areas. The ETS elementary and middle PLT do not match Maryland's grade bands. The state noted that it requires early childhood, elementary and secondary teacher candidates to present qualifying scores on the appropriate state-validated national test of pedagogy.  

Maryland added that it understands the need to be cautious in endorsing any performance assessment program until data are conclusive. TPA is being piloted in several states with data maintained and analyzed from these pilots. NCATE is accepting the TPA as one assessment in its Standard 2 assessment system requirement. Maryland is a state that requires NCATE accreditation but also accepts TPA as a valid instrument. 

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)