Assessing Professional Knowledge : Tennessee

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

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

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

Tennessee requires all new teachers to pass a popular pedagogy test from the Praxis series in order to attain licensure.

Tennessee is also accelerating its participation in the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) consortium by including all of the state's institutions of higher learning in the pilot program next year, with the expectation that it will allow or require the use of TPA in licensure as early as 2012.

Citation

Recommendations for Tennessee

Verify that commercially available tests of pedagogy actually align with state standards.
Tennessee 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.
While Tennessee 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

Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

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)