The state should require undergraduate teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with good academic records.
Virginia requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs accept teacher candidates who have passed a basic skills test, the Praxis I. Although the state sets the minimum score for this test, it is normed just to the prospective teacher population.
Virginia also allows candidates to qualify by means of equivalent scores on the SAT or ACT.
Unfortunately, the state's policy has a glaring loophole. Programs are permitted to accept candidates who have not met the minimum score set by the state and provide such candidates with "the opportunity to address any deficiencies."
Code of Virginia 23-9.2:3.6 Entry Assessment to Virginia Approved Programs http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/educator_preparation/college_programs/entry_assessment.pdf
Require all 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.
Virginia would have a sound policy but for the loophole that allows programs to essentially waive this requirement for candidates as they see fit. 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—Virginia 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.
Virginia cited the pertinent section of the Code that states, in part: "That the Board of Education shall prescribe an assessment of basic skills for individuals seeking entry into an approved education program and shall establish a minimum passing score for such assessment. The Board also may prescribe other requirements for admission to Virginia's approved education programs in its regulations. Candidates who fail to achieve the minimum score established by the Board of Education may be denied entrance into the relevant education program on the basis of such failure; however, if enrolled in the program, they shall have the opportunity to address any deficiencies."
Virginia also noted that it sets the passing scores for Praxis I, and they are among the nation's highest scores for those states using this test.
The cited section of the Code indicates that candidates "may" be denied entry into a preparation program if they fail the basic skills test, and those who enroll may "address any deficiencies." Clearly, a loophole exists for those candidates who do not earn a passing score on the Praxis I assessment.
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.