Assessing Professional Knowledge : Rhode
Island

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 : Rhode Island results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/RI-Assessing-Professional-Knowledge--6

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Rhode Island requires all new secondary teachers to pass a popular pedagogy test from the Praxis series in order to attain licensure. The state only requires all new elementary teachers to pass a popular content test from the Praxis series that combines both subject-matter knowledge and pedagogy in order to attain licensure.

Citation

Recommendations for Rhode Island

Require that all new teachers pass a pedagogy test.
Rhode Island should verify that all new teachers meet professional standards through a test of professional knowledge for elementary teachers, in addition to secondary teachers.

Verify that commercially available tests of pedagogy actually align with state standards.
Rhode Island should ensure that its selected test of professional knowledge measures the knowledge and skills the state expects new teachers to have. 

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that proposed certification changes will include testing changes. Rhode Island's full testing plan is under development, and a review will take place to ensure that any required general pedagogy test aligns to state teaching standards.

Rhode Island also noted that the analysis only mentions one of the required elementary tests, the content knowledge test for elementary teachers. The state pointed out that it also requires the content area exercises assessment. 

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)