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Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification, and testing in


(24 March)

Yale University
Political Science Department
Spring 2009

John Bryan Starr

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Table of Contents

The case 2

Document #1: Linda Darling-Hammond, Arthur E. Wise, and Stephen P. Klein, 4

A License to Teach: Raising Standards for Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999)
Excerpts from Chapters 2 and 3

Document #2: Education Trust, “Not good enough: A content analysis of 38

teacher licensing examinations,” Special issue of Thinking K-16 (Washington,
D.C., Education Trust, 1999)

Document #3: The Teaching Commission, Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action 60

(New York: The Teaching Commission, 2004) Chapter 3. Excerpts.

Document #4: Bess Keller, “Group Signs Off With Progress Report on Teacher 68
Quality,” Education Week, March 29, 2006.

Document # 5: Linda Darling-Hammond, Deborah J. Holtzman, 70

Su Jin Gatlin & Julian Vasquez Heilig, “Does Teacher Preparation Matter?
Evidence about Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher
Effectiveness,” 2005.

Document #6: Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway and Colin Taylor, Making a difference? 70
The effects of Teach for America in High School, (National Center for Analysis of
Longitudinal Data in Education, The Urban Institute, April 2007).

Document #7: Megan Hopkins, “Training the Next Teachers for America: A 75
proposal for reconceptualizing Teach for America, Phi Delta Kappan June 2008.

Document #8: Julie Blair, “Teacher Tests Criticized As Single Gauge,” Education 82
Week, April 4, 2001.

Document #9: U.S. Department of Education, Meeting the Highly Qualified 86

Teachers Challenge: The Secretary’s Third Annual Report on Teacher Quality
(Washington, 2004). Chapter 1 excerpts.

Document #10: Kate Walsh and Emma Snyder, Searching the Attic: How states are 90
responding to the nation’s goal of placing a highly qualified teacher in every classroom
(Washington: National Council on Teacher Quality, 2004)

Document #11: Christopher O. Tracy and Kate Walsh, Necessary and Insufficient: 95
Resisting a full measure of teacher quality (Washington: National Council on
Teacher Quality, 2004)

Document #12: Bess Keller, “Actual Measure of ‘Highly Qualified’ Teachers Just 99
Beginning to Come to Light Across Nation: First and second rounds of reported
data based largely on guess work,” Education Week, December 14, 2005.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Document #13: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, About 104

Background information on Massachusetts and its public schools 114

Exhibit #1: School system statistics 120

Exhibit #2: Massachusetts School Governance 121

Exhibit #3: 2003-04 Massachusetts State Report Card 122

Exhibit #4: Timeline of events in Massachusetts teacher testing 123

Document #14: R. Clarke Fowler, “What Did the Massachusetts Teacher Tests 125
Say About American Education?” Phi Delta Kappan, June 2001

Exhibit #5: Massachusetts Test for Educational Licensure: 1998 and 2008 138
test results

Suggested Study Questions 142

Appendix #1: Last year’s clarifying questions 142

Appendix #2: Teacher compensation 146

The case.

A proposed new program, “Brain Surgery for America,” plans to provide recent college
graduates with six weeks’ summer training before placing them in operating rooms across
the country to help address a serious shortage of certified brain surgeons, particularly in
large urban hospitals. Program participants will begin operating independently as soon as
they take up their appointments in the fall.

Obviously my proposed program is a fiction, but it closely parallels any number of public
and private “alternative certification” programs designed to address the very real shortage
of classroom teachers, particularly in large urban schools. We would never consider
selecting as our physician an individual who had received less than a full medical school
education and subsequent certification. We would be unlikely to select as our lawyer an
individual without a law school degree and a bar examination certificate. And yet we
entertain a lingering notion that virtually any reasonably intelligent person with a college
degree of some sort should be able to teach. We refer to teaching as a profession, but we
have very different standards in mind for that profession than we do for the other

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Of course “alternative certification” is only an adjunct to the more widespread training

programs and certification systems through which prospective teachers are prepared for the
classroom. Our case this week takes up the questions of what preparation is most
important for prospective teachers and administrators to receive, how that preparation
should be evaluated as a part of the certification process, and whether it is appropriate and
necessary to re-evaluate mid-career teachers and administrators.

We will consider two points of view with respect to teacher preparation. Linda Darling-
Hammond and her colleagues argue that pedagogy—teaching how to teach, if you will—
is equally as important as subject-matter training for prospective teachers. Representing
the other camp in the debate, Kati Haycock (who describes herself as “a bit shrill”) and
her colleagues at the Education Trust argue that subject matter training is significantly
more important for prospective teachers than is pedagogical preparation.

Given their difference of opinion, the two have very different notions of what prospective
teachers ought to be tested on as a part of their certification. Darling-Hammond deplores
paper-and-pencil test questions that “oversimplify teaching.” Haycock objects strenuously
to subject-matter examinations in math and language arts that are beneath the level of tests
administered to high school students.

We turn next to the question of alternative certification, and specifically to Teach for
America, which is by far the largest such program. We will read accounts of two studies,
the first of which found TFA teachers underperforming their regularly certified colleagues,
the second finding them outperforming their regularly certified colleagues. Finally, we
read a set of proposals by a former TFA volunteer for strengthening the programs teacher
preparation component.

Next we consider the impact of the teacher quality provision of the No Child Left Behind
Act that calls for all teachers in core subjects to be “highly qualified” by the end of school
year 2005-06. We look at a report from the U.S. Department of Education on
compliance with the provision, at the report of a commission on teaching, at two
commentaries on state compliance produced by the National Council on Teacher
Quality, and a brief description of National Board Certification, the nation’s most
respected teacher evaluation system.

At this point, the casebook takes a careful look at Massachusetts, our case study state. We
read of a debacle that played itself out in Massachusetts in 1998 when a new teacher
certification examination—the Massachusetts Educator Certification Tests (MECT)—was
first administered. The initial failure rate was startlingly high, resulting in name-calling,
political infighting, and the resignation of the acting state education commissioner. When
the then-governor called for the administration of the test to already-certified teachers, the
teachers union sued.

The name of the test was changed to “Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure” in 2001.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

The casebook begins with a careful look at a debate on teacher preparation. Linda Darling-
Hammond and her colleagues acknowledge the importance of “content knowledge”—one needs to
know American history before attempting to teach it to a classful of high school students. But they
argue that equally important—in some instances more important—is knowledge of pedagogy, the art
or science of teaching.

Document #1: Linda Darling-Hammond, Arthur E. Wise, and Stephen P. Klein, A

License to Teach: Raising Standards for Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999) pp. 16-70

Chapter 2: What Teachers Need to Know and Be Able to Do

The history of teaching in the United States requires that we address the question “what
do teachers need to know and be able to do?” by first answering a prior question: Is there
anything teachers need to know or be able to do? The view of teaching as semiskilled work
requiring little more than basic literacy skills and the ability to follow guidelines
encapsulated in texts and curriculum materials is a time-honored one. From popular
cartoons illustrating teaching as a simplistic and mind-numbing activity to teacher-proof
materials that assume teachers’ activities can be easily programmed by directives about
what to do when, the image of teaching as requiring little knowledge or skill is

Policymakers exhibit their ambivalence about whether a knowledge base for teaching
exists by regularly enacting loopholes to licensing that require no teacher education. This
ambivalence is the most obvious in the long-standing practice of emergency licensure in
nearly all states and the recent enactment of alternative routes to teacher certification in
more than thirty states. Some of these alternative certification programs require little more
than a few weeks of preparation before entry into the classroom, where on-the-job
supervision is supposed to occur but rarely does (Darling-Hammond, 1992). In the view
of many educators, these alternatives “reflect unbelief in a knowledge base in
teaching,…lack of respect for schools of education...and mitigate against professional
teaching” (Schwartz, 1988, p. 37).

Professional teaching is undermined by alternatives that avoid preparation for teachers

because the defining characteristics of a profession are that it is knowledge-based and client-
oriented—that is, committed to using the best available knowledge on behalf of the clients
who are served. This commitment cannot be ensured when recruits do not encounter or
master professional knowledge. Neither can the third characteristic of a profession be
guaranteed: that it is internally accountable—that is, members of the profession take
responsibility for defining, transmitting, and enforcing standards of practice based on
professional knowledge and ethical commitments (Darling-Hammond, 1989a). Society
grants professionals permission to develop their own standards of practice rather than being
managed by external regulations that determine practice. This transfer of state authority
exists in exchange for assurance that the profession will allow only those who have
mastered the knowledge base needed for responsible decision-making to practice—that is,
to apply their judgment in situations that can have important influences on clients.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

The knowledge professionals need in order to make sound decisions is transmitted

through professional education and by initiation through supervised clinical practice under
the guidance of experts. This process requires that organizations of professionals achieve a
consensus about what is worth knowing and how it can best be transmitted and that they
then use these judgments as the basis for regulating professional preparation programs and
entry standards.

As a consequence of the historical regulation of teaching, this process of codifying

knowledge and establishing standards is just beginning. Of course, there is a chicken-and-
egg problem that makes this enterprise problematic. Because low standards for entry into
teaching have been commonplace, the resulting unevenness in the capacities of teachers
has led many to perceive—accurately—that a substantial number of teachers seem unable
to make sound judgments about curriculum and teaching methods on their own. As a
consequence, prescribed teaching behaviors appear to some to be necessary and warranted.
And if the prescribed structures for teaching make it appear mechanical and thoughtless,
unexciting and low-skilled in nature, then any need for greater knowledge and skill may
seem to have been obviated by the routinized nature of the job. In addition, prospective
entrants looking for more intellectually challenging work will be dissuaded from seeking it
in the teaching profession. Unless these conditions are changed, it will be difficult to raise
standards and maintain a large pool of talented recruits.

Although the interaction of low standards with a deskilled role for teachers has slowed
progress toward standard setting, the heightened demands of schooling as we enter a new
social era are clearly changing both the expectations for teachers and the requirements for
teacher preparation. As reformers have stressed the need for more students to be better
prepared for critical thinking and advanced disciplinary inquiry, they have also emphasized
the need for teachers who possess these characteristics and who can do more than march
students through textbooks, who can educate students for inquiry and invention and can
reach students traditionally left behind.

At the same time, the complexity of teaching and learning has been illuminated by
educational research over the past two decades. We now know that students have different
learning styles and rates of development, that psychological factors—such as perceptions of
self-efficacy—influence motivation and learning, and that prior experiences and learnings
mediate the processing of information presented in formal instruction. In short, we know
that students do not come to school as tabula rasae to be imprinted with well-defined bits
of knowledge that inescapably adds up to “good education.” We also know that there is
no simple set of easily prescribed teaching behaviors that invariably add up to teaching
effectiveness. “Effective” teaching behaviors vary for different subject areas and grade
levels, for students at different developmental stages and with different cognitive and
psychological characteristics, and— most important, perhaps—for different learning
outcomes. The concept of teacher effectiveness is not only defined by the teaching
context; it is also defined by the goals of instruction (Darling-Hammond and Hudson,
1988). As the goals of education change from the acquisition of basic skills and facts to the
development of higher-order thinking and performance skills, society’s conceptions of
what teachers need to know and be able to do must change as well.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Teaching is an intense activity. Teachers must simultaneously juggle subject matter; the
lesson’s underlying cognitive, social, and affective goals; the management of time,
materials, and equipment; and the needs and responses of individual students. They must
be aware of how students are working and be alert to signs of misunderstanding or
confusion while seizing the “teachable moment” for pursuing a key point when students
are ready to grasp it. They must skillfully manage transitions among activities so as not to
lose students’ attention and momentum. They must attend to health and safety concerns as
well as cognitive ones, understanding home and family circumstances to create appropriate
classroom conditions for learning.

In addition to structuring encounters with important ideas and useful tasks, good teachers
cheer up children who are discouraged, rechannel the energies of those who are aimless or
nonproductive, and challenge those who are bored. They listen to students to understand
what the students know and think, evaluate papers and performances, give assignments
that move students forward, and provide feedback that offers constructive information and
direction. They must be well organized and able to concentrate to keep all of these balls in
the air at once, yet their structures must be permeable, allowing them to maintain an
openness to unexpected events, problems, and opportunities.

Teachers make at least ten nontrivial decisions an hour (Berliner, 1984). Is this an
appropriate question to ask Johnny? Is Susan ready to learn about paragraphing? How can
I find yet another way to convey the concept of photosynthesis in a way that breaks
through the students’ misconceptions? Will correcting Ellen’s spelling at this point
discourage her from writing? How can I find out why Joe has been so withdrawn and
disconnected lately? These decisions are made in the course of at least fifteen hundred
interactions each day with groups of twenty-five to thirty students in a class (Berliner,
1984). And beyond all of these describable complexities of teaching is the artistry that
resists codification. As Max van Manen (1984) noted in “Reflections on Teacher
Experience and Pedagogic Competence”:

Teacher competence does not consist of some systematic set of teaching skills and
classroom management techniques which once mastered take the mystery out of teaching
children. Teacher competence is that which a teacher resorts to when he or she tactfully
converts just any kind of experience to a true learning experience, and in so “doing,” he
or she restores the mystery of “being” a teacher (p. 147)

It is no wonder that teachers have some difficulty articulating what it is they do in a way
that can be easily communicated to a lay public.

Nonetheless, answers to the questions of what teachers should know and be able to do in
order to create these kinds of experiences and make sound teaching decisions are closer
now than they have been in the past, partly because of a growth of knowledge derived
from research on teaching and learning and partly because of changes in the governance of
the teaching profession. These latter changes have enabled a consensus about teaching
knowledge to be crafted by newly formed and recently strengthened professional bodies
charged with defining and transmitting standards.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

In this chapter we discuss both the substance of a growing consensus about teaching
knowledge and the processes by which that consensus is being forged and transmitted.

The Knowledge Base for Teaching

Although legislative policies have often presumed that little special knowledge is needed
for successful teaching, the weight of research over the past twenty years indicates that—
even given the wide range of quality in schools of education—teachers who have
completed a full preparation program for licensure are in fact more highly rated and
successful with students than are teachers without full preparation (Evertson, Hawley, and
Ziotnik, 1985; Ashton and Crocker, 1986,1987; Greenberg, 1983; Haberman, 1984;
Olsen, 1985). As Evertson and colleagues concluded in their research review:

The available research suggests that among students who become teachers, those en-
rolled in formal preservice preparation programs are more likely to be effective than
those who do not have such training. Moreover, almost all well planned and executed
efforts within teacher preparation programs to teach students specific knowledge or skills
seem to succeed, at least in the short run. (Evertson, Hawley, and Zlotnik, 1985, p. 8)
The importance for teacher effectiveness of preparation in both education and subject-
matter courses shows up strongly in a number of specific fields that have been studied,
including science (for a review see Druva and Anderson, 1983; see also Davis, 1964;
Perkes, 1967-1968; Taylor, 1957); mathematics, where mathematics methods courses are
particularly important (Begle, 1979; Begle and Geeslin, 1972); and vocational education
(Erekson and Barr, 1985). At the elementary level, teachers’ education training is related
to ratings of instructional effectiveness, as well as to student achievement and interest on a
wide range of tasks (LuPone, 1961; McNeil, 1974). Teachers’ background in reading
methods courses is positively related to students’ reading achievement (Hice, 1970). And
the single most important feature of early childhood programs with long-term positive
effects on student performance is the extent of preparation the programs’ teachers have
received (Roupp et al., 1979).

The effects of teacher preparation are particularly noticeable when achievement is

measured on higher-order tasks such as students’ abilities to apply and interpret scientific
concepts (Perkes, 1967-1968) or other higher-order thinking skills (Hansen, 1988). Given
current school reforms aimed at more adaptive teaching focused more on critical thinking
skills, it is important to understand how teacher preparation appears to have these positive
influences on teachers’ sensitivity to diverse student needs and on their ability to teach in a
style conducive to higher-order learning. These influences may result partly from the fact
that as prospective teachers progress through their professional education courses, they
become increasingly student-centered in their attitudes and more aware of methods that
support students’ development and independent and critical thinking (Skipper and
Quantz, 1987).

Furthermore, it seems that appropriate preparation in planning and classroom management

is one of the factors that allows teachers to focus on the kind of complex teaching that is
needed to develop higher-order skills. Since the novel tasks required for complex problem
solving are more difficult to manage than the routine tasks associated with learning simple

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

skills, lack of management ability can lead teachers to reduce curriculum demands in order
to more easily control student work (Carter and Doyle, 1987; Doyle, 1986).

How Preparation Makes a Difference

Other studies illuminate these findings by pointing out the differences in the perceptions
and practices of teachers with differing amounts and kinds of preparation. A number of
studies have suggested that the typical problems of beginning teachers are lessened for
those who have had adequate preparation prior to entry (Adams, Hutchinson, and
Martray, 1980; Glassberg, 1980; Taylor and Dale, 1971).

Studies of teachers admitted through quick-entry alternate routes have frequently noted
that the candidates have difficulty with curriculum development, pedagogical content
knowledge, attending to students’ differing learning styles and levels, classroom
management, and student motivation (Lenk, 1989; Feiman-Nemser and Parker, 1990;
Grossman, 1989,1990; Mitchell, 1987). Novice teachers without full training show more
ignorance about student needs and differences and about the basics of teaching than do
trained beginners (Rottenberg and Berliner, 1990).

A number of studies have found that in comparison to beginners who have completed a
teacher education program, teachers who enter teaching without preparation are less
sensitive to students, less able to plan and redirect instruction to meet students’ needs (and
less aware of the need to do so), and less skilled in implementing instruction (Rottenberg
and Berliner, 1990; Bents and Bents, 1990; Grossman, 1988; Bledsoe, Cox, and Burnham,
1967; Copley, 1974). They are less able to anticipate students’ knowledge and potential
difficulties and less likely to see it as their job to do so, often blaming the students if their
teaching is not successful. As Pamela Grossman (1989, p. 205) put it: “Without formal
systems for induction into teaching, learning to teach is left largely to chance. Although
much pedagogical knowledge has been characterized as common sense, knowledge is not
hanging, ripe and fully formed, in the classroom, waiting to be plucked by inexperienced

The teacher who gives up on a child who has not learned an important skill or concept is
a teacher who does not know what the child does not know. A teacher who does not
understand the ways in which different children learn differently, who does not have a
sense of the scaffolding of a field of knowledge or how to evaluate students’ prior
knowledge, and who does not have a wide repertoire of alternative representations,
explanations, and modes of teaching is not going to be equipped to help all children learn.
Research on cognition, learning, and subject-matter pedagogy has made strong advances
that provide insights in each of these areas.

An unprepared teacher is likely to teach in the way he or she was taught. When a
powerful teacher education process does not intervene, new knowledge does not have an
opportunity to transform teaching across generations. Yet prospective teachers cannot
profit from these insights if they have no opportunity to encounter them. As Mary
Kennedy (1991b) explained:

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

The improvement-of-practice problem boils down to this: if we know that teachers are
highly likely to teach as they were taught and if we are not satisfied with the way they
were taught, then how can we help them develop different teaching strategies? And how
can we create schools and policies that will support the use of these policies? How serious
is the improvement-of-practice problem? I judge it to be very serious. We are caught in a
vicious circle of mediocre practice modeled after mediocre practice, of trivialized
knowledge begetting more trivialized knowledge. Unless we find a way out of this circle,
we will continue re-creating generations of teachers who recreate generations of students
who are not prepared for the technological society we are becoming, (p. 662)

The problems of practicing without a strong teacher education intervention were reflected
in a study of the performance of alternate-route candidates in Dallas (Gomez and Grobe,
1990). Although on average these candidates were rated about as well as traditional
education candidates on some aspects of teaching, they were rated lower on such factors as
their knowledge of instructional techniques and ability to use different instructional
models. The performance of alternate-route candidates was also much more uneven than
that of trained teachers, with a much greater proportion—from two to sixteen times as
many—likely to be rated “poor” on each of the teaching factors evaluated. The
proportions of alternate-route candidates rated “poor” ranged from 8 percent on reading
instruction to 17 percent on classroom management, whereas fewer than 2 percent of
trained beginners typically received “poor” ratings on any of the factors. The effects of this
unevenness showed up most strongly on students’ achievement in language arts, where the
achievement gains of students of alternate-route teachers were significantly lower than
those of students of traditionally trained teachers.

Perhaps it is not surprising that alternate-route teachers from short-term programs often
experience less job satisfaction than do fully certified beginning teachers (Sciacca, 1987;
Lutz and Hutton, 1989) or that they report less satisfaction with their preparation and less
commitment to remaining in teaching than do other recruits (Darling-Hammond,
Hudson, and Kirby, 1989; see also, regarding attrition, Lutz and Hutton, 1989; Roth,
1986, p. 5). Problems resulting from inadequate preparation headed the list of complaints
of the 20 percent of Los Angeles alternate-route candidates who quit before they
completed their programs in 1984 and 1985, as well as many of those who remained but
voiced dissatisfaction (Wright, McKibbon, and Walton, 1987).

What Kinds of Preparation Matter?

Traditionally, teacher preparation programs have been structured around a presumption

that teachers need some grounding in the disciplines they will teach, in specialized
education courses focused on teaching, learning, and child development, and in a
supervised practice experience such as student teaching. Recent policies seeking to change
teacher education and licensing have differed in the extent to which they accept these
presumptions. The various policies represent differing beliefs about what teachers need to
know in order to be effective.

Alternative certification programs often presume that education courses and student
teaching are unnecessary, although they may require a bachelor’s degree in the subject to

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

be taught. For those routes that incorporate only brief preliminary training, the basic
assumption is that subject-matter preparation is the most crucial foundation for good
teaching; with modest initial guidance, it is felt that teachers will learn pedagogical skills
on the job. Most of the fast track routes postulate supervision for their already-hired
beginning teachers, thus implicitly acknowledging the desirability of professional guidance
for this clinical learning. However, a number of studies have found that this supervision
does not often materialize for alternate-route trainees (Darling-Hammond, 1992). School
districts are generally not financed or structured to provide time and opportunity for
expert professionals to assume responsible supervision.

During the 1980s, a few states—Virginia, Texas, and New Jersey—sought to increase time
for subject-matter preparation at the undergraduate level by limiting the number of
education courses a student could take, typically to no more than eighteen credits. These
approaches assumed that whereas disciplinary preparation might be important for good
teaching, specific preparation regarding how to teach is not.

In other states, such as New York, Connecticut, Oregon, and Wisconsin, both
disciplinary background and education preparation have been extended by requiring a
bachelor’s degree in a discipline plus the equivalent of a fifth year of education training or
a master’s degree that includes pedagogical preparation. These programs include a fairly
substantial amount of study in educational foundations (child development, learning
theory, and similar areas) and teaching methods, alongside an intensively supervised
internship or student teaching experience. They assume that teachers need to know a great
deal about learners and learning as well as subject-specific pedagogy in order to be able to
teach effectively. They share a belief that clinical learning opportunities are important for
prospective teachers, and they incorporate supervised clinical training into their preservice
programs rather than assuming that such opportunities will materialize after the teacher has
begun full-time teaching.

These differing assumptions suggest that, ultimately, the design of teacher licensing systems
should rest on answers to two related questions: What kinds of knowledge and training
play important roles in the development of teachers’ skills and abilities, and how are these
best acquired? Although definitive answers to the second question are not yet available,
research on teaching and teacher effectiveness has provided many clues about how
subject-matter preparation, pedagogical preparation, and opportunities for supervised
practice influence teacher abilities.

The Influence of Subject-Matter Courses. Subject-matter knowledge appears to make a

difference in teaching, at least up to a certain point. Byrne’s (1983) summary of thirty
studies found seventeen showing a positive, although not always statistically significant,
relationship between teachers’ subject knowledge and student achievement. Of the studies
they reviewed, Ashton and Crocker (1987) found only about a third suggesting a positive
relationship between these two variables. Other reviews have found inconsistent
(sometimes even inverse) relationships between teachers’ subject-matter knowledge as
measured by the National Teacher Examinations and ratings of teacher performance
(Andrews, Blackmon, and Mackey, 1980; Ayers and Quails, 1979; Quirk, Witten, and

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Weinberg, 1973).

These results are likely mixed because subject-matter knowledge is a positive influence up
to some level of basic competence and familiarity with the subject but is less important
thereafter. For example, evidence exists that out-of-field assignment of teachers has
negative effects on student achievement in mathematics (Hawk, Coble, and Swanson,
1985). When teachers with backgrounds in mathematics were compared to teachers with
backgrounds in other subjects who had been assigned to teach mathematics, the lack of
subject-matter competence resulted in reduced teacher effectiveness.

However, beyond some point, more subject-matter courses do not seem to make a
difference. As Begle and Geeslin (1972) found, the absolute number of course credits in
mathematics is not linearly related to teaching quality for mathematics teachers. And as
McDiarmid, Ball, and Andersen’s (1989, p. 17) review noted: “While obviously essential,
a flexible understanding of subject matter is not enough for beginning teachers. They also
need to know about learners...and the learning process.”

Furthermore, McDiarmid’s (1989) review of what college students learn in their liberal
arts courses confirmed that the pedagogical shortcomings of most postsecondary teaching
do not supply students with useful models of active learning to apply to their own
teaching. The image of the renowned university professor who knows much about his or
her subject but cannot explain it to students is widely held. To know is not necessarily to
be able to teach. Thus, we must be concerned with how to make the knowledge of the
teacher serve the needs of the learner.

The Influence of Education Courses. A large number of studies have found positive
relationships between education coursework and teacher performance in the classroom.
These relationships are stronger and more consistent than those between subject-matter
knowledge and classroom performance (for reviews, see Ashton and Crocker, 1987;
Guyton and Farokhi, 1987). Denton and Lacina (1984) found a positive relationship
between the amount of professional coursework taken by teachers and their teaching
performance, including their students’ achievement. Specific kinds of teacher education
have also been found to produce positive effects on the later performance of teachers and
their students (for reviews, see, e.g., Evertson, Hawley, and Ziotnik, 1985; Good, 1983;
Butcher, 1981; Gage and Winne, 1975).

Two recent studies of midcareer and other nontraditional recruits to teaching found that
their strongest recommendation was for a heavier dose of subject-specific teaching
methods, including pedagogical guidance combined with more information about child
and adolescent motivation, development, and cognition (Darling-Hammond, Hudson,
and Kirby, 1989; Coley and Thorpe, 1985). These findings are not surprising in light of
recent research suggesting the importance of subject-specific pedagogy to teacher
effectiveness, particularly as it intersects with knowledge about students (Shulman, 1986;
Wilson, Shulman, and Richert, 1987; see also Kennedy, 1990).

Knowledge about how to teach particular subjects has its intellectual roots in research on
cognitive processes. Subject-specific pedagogy goes beyond this foundation, however.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Solid understandings about how to teach reading are built on knowledge about how
readers form conceptions, interact with text, and make sense of new information, words,
and ideas (Anderson et al., 1984). Knowledge about mathematics teaching is built on
understandings of how students develop mathematical reasoning and how they construct
number concepts that they can later apply in various operations (Romberg and Carpenter,
1985). Knowledge about science teaching rests on an understanding of the misconceptions
students typically hold about natural phenomena as well as on an appreciation for the
structure of scientific knowledge that enables scaffolding of ideas and guidance of student
inquiry (Anderson, 1991; Carey, 1986). These understandings are then joined to
knowledge about teaching materials and resources that enable theoretical knowledge to
come alive in purposeful, content-rich teaching and learning.

A number of capabilities and dispositions that are related to education preparation are also
important to teacher performance. Research on teachers’ attitudes and dispositions has
found that flexibility (alternatively labeled adaptability or creativity) increases teacher
effectiveness (Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Pease, 1983; Walberg and Waxman, 1983;
Schalock, 1979). This finding is consistent with other research on effective teaching
(discussed in the section “Characterizing Teaching Knowledge”), which suggests that an
effective teacher is one who molds and adjusts his or her teaching to fit the demands of
each student, topic, instructional method, and teaching goal. Given the
multidimensionality, simultaneity, and immediacy of classroom events, it is not surprising
that teachers who are flexible, adaptable, and creative are more effective in producing
positive student learning outcomes. Studies of the development of expertise have indicated
that flexibility increases as a function of both experience and preparation (Berliner,
1987,1992; Rottenberg and Berliner, 1990; Bents and Bents, 1990).

Teachers’ attitudes—specifically, their feelings of efficacy or beliefs in their ability to help

students learn—have also been found to be strongly and consistently related to teacher
performance and student outcomes (Berman and McLaughlin, 1977; Armor et al., 1976;
Brookover, 1977; Putter et al., 1979). Teachers who believe they can help their students
achieve are more effective than teachers who are less certain of their influence.
Rosenholtz (1989) demonstrated that teacher learning opportunities have important effects
on teachers’ sense of self-efficacy and certainty regarding their knowledge and capacity to
be effective. Several studies have suggested that professional preparation enhances both
teachers’ sense of efficacy—their responsibility for and capacity to ensure that students
learn—and their ability to respond flexibly to student needs (Grossman, 1988,1989;
Rottenberg and Berliner, 1990). Efficacy also appears to influence teacher satisfaction and
teachers’ more generalized feelings about their work (Rosenholtz, 1989). In fact, teachers
who lack confidence in their teaching skills have higher rates of absenteeism and attrition
(Chapman, 1984; Litt and Turk, 1983). Teachers’ educational background and preparation
appear closely related to their confidence in their ability to teach effectively.

Thus, the interactions between teachers’ preparation and what their students later
experience and learn are many and complex. Based on a review of eighty-three studies
from nine countries, Veenman (1984) concluded that given the common experiences of
beginning teachers, programs that emphasize subject-matter training at the expense of
professional education courses are not warranted.

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The Influence of Guided Clinical Experience. A third component of teacher preparation is

“clinical” learning: the application of knowledge about teaching in the complex, real
world of classrooms. Teachers traditionally cite their supervised student teaching
experience as a key element of their preparation. Although many applied skills must
ultimately be learned in practice, it is clear that unsupervised on-the-job experience is, in
and of itself, insufficient to support teacher learning and teacher effectiveness, as it can lead
as frequently to the adoption of regressive and ineffective methods as to the acquisition of
appropriate strategies (Darling-Hammond, Gendler, and Wise, 1990; Grossman, 1989;
Hawley and Rosenholtz, 1984; McDonald, 1980; Ryan, 1980; NIE, 1979).

The importance of guidance in learning to teach has been confirmed by studies showing
that induction support for entering teachers improves the quality of their teaching
(Hilling-Austin and Murphy, 1987). Beginning teachers who receive such support move
more quickly from concerns about discipline and basic classroom management to concerns
about instruction and student progress (Odell, 1986). Virtually all studies of alternate-
routes to teacher education have noted the vital importance of high-quality, intensive
supervision and related clinical learning opportunities to candidates’ success and the
problems that occur when such support is absent (see, e.g., Adelman, 1986; Wright,
McKibbon, and Walton, 1987; Darling-Hammond, Hudson, and Kirby, 1989).

Interestingly, a state evaluation of the Los Angeles alternative certification program

compared several different kinds of teaching recruits, including one group of alternate-
route entrants who decided to enroll in regular university teacher education programs
rather than the short alternate-route summer program while still receiving state-funded
mentor support. This group far out scored any of the other recruits on every criterion of
classroom effectiveness, suggesting the cumulative power of adding adequate preservice
preparation to intensive on-the-job supervision (Wright, McKibbon, and Walton, 1987,
p. 124).


In sum, research on teacher knowledge and preparation indicates that teacher education
makes a difference in teaching effectiveness. Most research indicates that students taught
by fully prepared teachers learn more than students taught by teachers who are not
prepared. The extent of teacher preparation is especially important in determining the
effectiveness of teachers in “school-based” subjects, such as mathematics, science, and early
reading, as well as the use of teaching strategies that encourage higher-order learning and
respond to students’ needs and learning styles.

Furthermore, some kinds of preparation appear to make more difference than others.
Standard knowledge of subject matter is important up to a point: For example, out-of-
field teachers are less effective than teachers who have been prepared to teach a given
subject. However, past the level of basic subject-area preparation, most studies find that
greater preparation in child development, learning theory, curriculum development, and
teaching methods has a stronger influence on teacher effectiveness than does additional

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subject-matter preparation. In addition, intensive clinical guidance in learning to teach is

extremely important to the effectiveness of beginning teachers. These findings suggest a
structure for teacher licensing that includes all three components of preparation as a
prerequisite for permission to practice.

Characterizing Teaching Knowledge

Given that there do appear to be areas of study and kinds of learning that contribute to
teacher effectiveness, the next question is what it is that teachers understand and can do as
a consequence of these experiences that ultimately makes a difference for their students.
There are at least two levels to the debate about teacher knowledge and its assessment. In
addition to the question of whether any body of knowledge exists that undergirds
teaching, there are also disagreements about what that knowledge is and how it should be
demonstrated. The disagreements have stemmed from competing conceptions of
“effective” teaching and from attempts to over-generalize research results to circumstances
to which they do not apply or to reduce specific research findings to unvarying
prescriptions for teacher behavior.

Early efforts to link specific teacher characteristics or teaching behaviors to student

outcomes sought context-free generalizations about what leads to or constitutes effective
teaching. Specific teacher behaviors were tallied in classrooms and correlated with student
achievement test scores in search of the specific set of “research-based” behaviors that
could be prescribed to ensure student learning. Although process-product research of this
kind produced useful data suggesting that what teachers do in classrooms does affect
students (see, e.g., Medley, 1979; Rosenshine and Furst, 1971; Stallings, 1977), the
findings do not hold up across diverse situations, indicating that the effectiveness of
particular teachers’ actions varies under different circumstances (see, e.g., Doyle, 1978;
Dunkin and Biddle, 1974; Shavelson and Dempsey-Atwood, 1976).

The most extensive process-product study of teacher effectiveness, the Beginning Teacher
Evaluation Study conducted for California’s Commission for Teacher Preparation and
Licensing, demonstrated that the search for a generic set of teaching behaviors consistently
associated with student achievement gains was futile. After that monumental effort, “The
researchers. . .concluded that linking precise and specific teacher behavior to precise and
specific learning of pupils [the original goal of the inquiry] is not possible at this time. . .
These findings suggest that the legal requirement for a license probably cannot be well
stated in precise behavioral terms” (Bush, 1979, p. 15; see also McDonald and Elias, 1976).

Researchers then sought to identify the particular conditions under which specific
behaviors would prove effective. Research on aptitude-treatment interactions looked at
how certain teaching behaviors might be more or less effective with different types of
students. This line of research suggested that effective teaching behaviors vary for students
with different socioeconomic and psychological characteristics (e.g., Brophy and Evertson,
1974, 1977; Cronbach and Snow, 1977; Peterson, 1976) and for different grade levels and
subject areas (Gage, 1978; McDonald and Elias, 1976). However, as Cronbach (1975)
discovered, the interaction effects that may be identified from teaching research are not
confined to easily translatable two-way or even three-way interactions. The number of

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contextual considerations teachers must take into account is far more than a single
“ability” dimension of a group of students or a particular grade level. Thus, although these
findings help frame important teaching principles, they cannot be used to establish specific
unvarying rules of practice (Cronbach, 1975; Knapp, 1982; Shavelson, 1973).

A related finding is that teaching behaviors that have sometimes been found to be effective
often bear a distinctly curvilinear relation to achievement. A behavior that is effective
when used in moderation can produce significant and negative results when used too
much (Peterson and Kauchak, 1982; Soar, 1972) or when applied in the wrong
circumstances (see, e.g., Coker, Medley, and Soar, 1980; McDonald and Elias, 1976). This
kind of finding also makes it difficult to develop rules for teaching behaviors that can be
applied generally.

As research on teacher effectiveness has become more conceptually and methodologically

sophisticated, researchers have come to acknowledge that the educational environment is
complex and variable and that generalized rules for teacher behavior cannot replace the
need for sophisticated teacher knowledge and professional judgment. Research on non-
teaching variables in the educational environment has indicated that many factors other
than teaching behaviors have profound effects on student learning (Centra and Potter,
1980; Anderson, 1982; McKenna, 1981) and that effective teaching must be responsive to
a number of student, classroom, and school variables in ways that preclude the application
of predetermined approaches to teaching (Joyce and Weil, 1972). Researchers who have
adopted an ecological perspective for investigating teaching have also pointed out that
teaching and learning are characterized by reciprocal causality—what the teacher does
depends on what students do, and vice versa, in a continuous set of interactions that
cannot be predetermined given the variability of human behavior and experience. This
reality also limits the applicability of process-product research findings. Research grounded
in this perspective has found that what students do affects teachers’ behaviors and that the
complexity of classroom life calls for teaching strategies responsive to environmental
demands. As Walter Doyle (1979) noted:

Traditionally, research on teaching has been viewed as a process of isolating a set of

effective teaching practices to be used by individual teachers to improve student learning
or by policy makers to design teacher education and teacher evaluation programs. The
emphasis in this tradition has been on predicting which methods or teacher behaviors have
the highest general success rate, and much of the controversy over the productivity of
research on teaching has centered on the legitimacy of propositions derived from available
studies…[The ecological approach] would seem to call into question the very possibility of
achieving a substantial number of highly generalizable statements about teaching
effectiveness, (pp. 203-204)

Research on the stability and generalizability of measures of teaching behaviors lends

support to a context-specific view of teaching. Stability refers to the extent that a teacher’s
behavior as measured at one point in time correlates with measures taken at another point
in time. Generalizability refers to the extent that such measures are stable across different
teaching situations (e.g., different subject areas, grade levels, student ability levels). The
bottomline question is: Does a given teacher exhibit the same kinds of behavior at
different points in time and within different teaching contexts? In general, the answer is

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no, especially with regard to low-inference measures of specific, discrete teaching

behaviors (Shavelson and Dempsey-Atwood, 1976). In fact, the more knowledgeable a
teacher is, the more we would expect his or her teaching to be responsive to the many
considerations of subject, learners, goals, and purposes that combine to produce different

In his Sources of a Science of Education, John Dewey (1929) put it this way:

Command of scientific methods and systematized subject-matter liberates individuals; it

enables them to see new problems, devise new procedures, and, in general, makes for
diversification rather than for set uniformity (p. 12)…This knowledge and understanding
render [the teacher’s] practice more intelligent, more flexible and better adapted to deal
effectively with concrete phenomena of practice…Seeing more relations, he sees more
possibilities, more opportunities. His ability to judge being enriched, he has a wider range
of alternatives to select from in dealing with individual situations. (pp. 20-21)

Thus…we believe the large body of research on teaching supports a conception of

teaching that is:

• Based on the integration of many areas of knowledge. These areas comprise

three major domains—knowledge about learners and learning; knowledge
about curriculum and teaching, and knowledge about society and social
contexts of education.

• Characterized by the use of multiple skills, appropriately applied to particular

situations, rather than by the unvarying exhibition of uniform teaching
behaviors in all teaching circumstances.

• Context-dependent. The uses of knowledge and the applications of skills

depend on the needs of particular students and classes as defined by
instructional goals; on pedagogical demands associated with the subject-matter,
instructional objectives, stages of student development, and previous learning;
and on characteristics of the students individually and as a class group
(cognitive styles, social and cultural attributes, social organization of the school
and classroom, and similar traits).

As a consequence, our approach to building assessments of teachers’ skills is based on

evaluating how well prospective teachers can apply knowledge of learning, teaching, and
the social context of education to the tasks of teaching—planning, instruction, diagnosis of
student needs and assessment of learning, and classroom management—within the
contexts of subject matter and students. We assume they must evaluate information about
students’ prior knowledge, approaches to learning, and interests, along with concerns for
instructional goals and the classroom-school-community setting as they form judgments
about appropriate courses of action…

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Chapter 3: The Need for New Assessments in Teaching…

Problems with Existing Tests of Teaching

The most widely used existing tests for teacher licensing are of two main types. First, most
states use paper-and-pencil standardized tests of basic skills, subject matter, or pedagogical
knowledge calling primarily for multiple-choice responses. These have been developed by
the Educational Testing Service in the form of the National Teacher Examinations (NTE)
and by a number of states, sometimes using the services of other commercial testing firms.
Second, a number of states have used performance evaluations of first-year teachers as a
condition for a regular or continuing license. These evaluations use classroom observations
by state evaluators or local administrators according to a checklist of designated teaching

As we describe in the next section, neither these paper-and-pencil standardized tests nor
the checklist-based observations have been able to meet the goal of a licensing assessment
system to represent a knowledge base and, thus, improve the quality of preparation. The
currently used measures represent attempts to articulate the knowledge and skills necessary
for professional practice in a way that allows for reliable scoring. However, because the
translation of skills and knowledge into evaluation criteria has been so crude, the
evaluations themselves are able neither to motivate acquisition of important information
and abilities nor to validly sort those who should be permitted to practice independently
from those who should not.

Shortcomings of Existing Paper-and-Pencil Tests

Most current teacher examinations ignore contextualized understanding of teaching and

learning in favor of items requiring the recognition of facts within subject areas,
knowledge of school law and bureaucratic procedures, and recognition of the “correct”
teaching behavior in a situation described in a short scenario of only one or two sentences.
One evaluation of the NTE test of teaching knowledge found that only 10 percent of the
questions actually relied on knowledge about teaching and learning and over 40 percent
were so poorly specified that they either had no clearly defensible right answer or had an
answer based solely on ideology rather than on a knowledge of research (Darling-
Hammond, 1986a). Of the remaining questions, 18 percent required knowledge of legal
rules and bureaucratic procedures, 9 percent required factual knowledge about testing
terms, and 19 percent required knowledge of simple word definitions or a commonsense,
careful reading of the question whose answer essentially repeated the stem.

Similarly, analyses of the professional knowledge sections of the study guides for the
Arkansas Educational Skills Assessment (AESA) and the Texas Examination of Current
Administrators and Teachers (TECAT) found that the tests consisted almost exclusively of
definitions of vocabulary (Melnick and Pullin, 1987; Tyson-Bernstein, 1987). In both
cases, the vast majority of terms were drawn from educational psychology, with a heavy
emphasis on psychometrics and behaviorist theories. “If this is the domain of knowledge
competent teachers are required to know, then an analysis of the impetus for such a
definition of professional knowledge is warranted,” Melnick and Pullin remarked. They

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

noted that such a definition is not surprising, however, when test makers are
psychometricians and educational psychologists rather than classroom teachers or teacher

In addition, the tests currently used do not allow for demonstrations of teacher
knowledge, judgment, and skills in the kinds of complex settings that characterize real
teaching. They may actually discourage the use of such knowledge by positing a
unidimensional philosophy of teaching that the test taker must consistently apply if he or
she is to find the “best” answers to poorly defined questions (Darling-Hammond, 1986a;
Shulman, 1987).

A recurring criticism of widely used standardized tests is that they present a narrow
behavioristic view of teaching that so oversimplifies the nature of teacher decisionmaking
that the ways in which teachers must use knowledge are misrepresented. Because the tests
rely solely on multiple-choice responses to exceedingly brief statements of professional
problems, they fail to represent the complexity of the decisionmaking process or the full
range of the professional knowledge base (Wise and Darling-Hammond, 1987). A major
problem is the failure to provide sufficient information about the context for and goals of
teaching decisions to allow for a sensible answer.

Oversimplifying Teaching. An example from a previous National Teachers Examination

sample test booklet (ETS, 1984) is indicative of the problem:

Use of which of the following is most important in the beginning instruction of the
young, visually impaired child?

(a) Machines with lighted screens to magnify print

(b) A large variety of large-print books
(c) Extended periods of nondirected play
(d) Many tactile and oral activities, or
(e) Large-print flash cards for learning sight vocabulary

Since the question does not reveal how young the child is, the nature of the visual
impairment, or the goals of instruction, there is no real way to apply professional
knowledge and judgment to reach a correct answer. The desired answer (d) is not
implausible, but it is not the appropriate course of action for, say, teaching early reading to
a partially sighted seven-year-old child. Even were a “correct” answer clearly discernible
from a more precisely framed question, it would not reveal whether the teacher could
diagnose the child’s needs or design an appropriate learning experience for the child.

Similarly, another question from a former NTE test of teaching knowledge (ETS, 1984)
poses the following scenario that seems to imply a single, simple approach to organizing

Research indicates that in classrooms where effective teaching and learning occur, the
teacher is likely to be doing which of the following consistently?

(a) Gearing instruction to the typical student at a given grade level

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(b) Carefully grouping students at the beginning of the school year and making sure that
these groups remain the same throughout the year
(c) Identifying the effective behaviors that students are likely to exhibit at a given level of
(d) Working diligently with students to make sure that each learns all of the material for
the class for the year, or
(e) Pacing instruction so that students can move ahead when they are able to or receive
extra help when they need it

The question does not define what is meant by “effective teaching and learning,” so it is
not possible to infer which of the many competing goals for instruction ought to be the
basis for making a judgment about strategies or which of several bodies of research
associated with differing goals for instruction are intended to be applicable. The designated
right answer (e) may not appear to be objectionable, but neither is it supported by an
unambiguous body of research on how to organize students for teaching and learning

The desired answer implies that individualized instructional strategies will be used,
although neither the question nor the answer deals with the assumptions such a strategy
makes about the nature of student grouping or the relative importance to be given to a
number of academic and social learning goals. Much research on individualized
instruction—which seems to be implied by (e)—has failed to find that it produces
significant learning gains (Good and Brophy, 1986).

Meanwhile, some research on teaching effectiveness has concluded that whole-group

instruction at a common pace fosters time-on-task and increased scores on some kinds of
achievement tests (see, e.g., Waxman and Eash, 1983; Medley, 1985). Other recent
research has suggested that heterogeneous groups of students engaged in cooperative
learning activities are effective for many kinds of inquiry learning and for social learning,
with higher-achieving students deepening their understanding as they teach other students
and lower-achieving students learning more as well (Johnson and Johnson, 1985). And
these two bodies of research frequently drew their conclusions based on different kinds of
learning goals: mastery of basic skills and facts in the first instance and acquisition of
higher-order thinking skills as well as highly developed social skills in the second.
Different strategies for instruction have been found effective for these different goals
(Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Pease, 1983; Good and Brophy, 1986).

The major point is that many intervening variables concerning classroom organization,
teaching strategies, and instructional goals make the simplistic application of any research
suspect. In this case, as in many others in which oversimplification is sought, selecting the
right answer is more a matter of agreement with the test’s philosophy than of having a
knowledge of research (Andrews, 1984; Soar, Medley, and Coker, 1983; Palladino, 1980;
Darling-Hammond, 1986a). The more one knows, the harder such questions are to
answer in the way the test makers demand. As Pugach and Raths (1983) warned in the
early days of teacher competency testing about the effects of such tests:

A primary problem with tests of this nature is that they tend to represent particular
ideologies, namely, those of the item writer…If such an examination were to be required

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on a statewide basis, schools, colleges, and departments of education would need to

prepare their students for the test, a process that is likely to narrow the range of
philosophies found in the teacher education classroom. At a time when it is increasingly
recognized that a repertoire of approaches and the ability to draw on them in a variety of
classroom situations is a desirable characteristic of teachers, any move that would narrow
their study seems problematic.

Questions that rely on a simplistic view of teaching are not only inadequate to assess what
skilled and knowledgeable teachers know, they also encourage a soft-headed approach to
the preparation of teachers. In the area of educational research, consider the following
question from an NTE sample test (ETS, 1984):

In general, which of the following factors has been shown in several studies to have the
strongest relationship to variation in student achievement?

(a) Teacher experience

(b) School size
(c) Type of textbooks
(d) Student/teacher ratio, or
(e) Community’s average income

Since many studies could be marshaled to support responses a, b, d, or e, the question is

meaningless without citing the “several studies” referenced. Furthermore, the desired
answer (e) is badly flawed, since those studies that have found effects of income on
achievement used measures of student family income, not community income. Some of
the most carefully controlled large-scale studies found that school size and teacher
experience accounted for more variation in achievement among schools with similar
populations than did community wealth (Ferguson, 1991; NIE, 1977). Thus, the question
reveals more about the limited knowledge of the item writer than about the knowledge of
teachers. Finally, by choosing the one answer that suggests that educators have little
control over achievement, the test conveys an acceptance of inequality and a low level of
confidence in teachers’ abilities to be effective in schools in poor communities.

A final example (ETS, 1984) illustrates the test’s emphasis on bureaucratic procedures.
This question seems designed to assess whether the teacher will avoid embarrassment for
school officials by handling sensitive situations in non-inflammatory ways:

A representative of a special interest group meets a teacher out of school and indicates that
the group objects to a particular textbook being used in the teacher’s classroom. Of the
following, which is the best response for the teacher to give the representative in order to
handle the situation in a non-threatening manner?

(a) Such a response by parents would be appropriate, but not by groups such as yours
that have no close connection with public schools
(b) Your group should write a letter to me and the principal specifying the passages that
the group objects to and why.
(c) The Constitution protects a teacher’s right to use any textbook that is appropriate.
(d) Is your interest group able to propose an appropriate but less controversial textbook?
(e) Since the textbook was adopted by the school board, any comments about it should
be directed to the board.

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Since the question does not specify the nature of the group’s concern or give a first-hand
example of the text at issue, the candidate cannot sort out any of the competing
considerations that might guide an authentic answer. Is the group angry that the text
teaches evolution instead of creationism? Or is there a concern that portrayals of minorities
are absent or stereotypic? Would the teacher’s own analysis of the text reveal causes for
concern? Is the text selected by the teacher? Is it the only one available in a school with
few resources or was it mandated by the school board? Does the teacher use the text
heavily in his or her teaching, as a resource augmented by supplemental materials, or only
on a few selected occasions? Are students asked to analyze issues from competing
perspectives or to read the text as the only viewpoint on all issues? Without these kinds of
information, a real answer cannot be considered And without an explanation of his or her
reasoning, a genuine evaluation of the teacher’s capacity to make appropriate judgments in
a difficult situation within a particular context cannot be assessed.

The desired answer (d) seems only to have the virtue of keeping the burden of dealing
with such situations off of the principal or the school board (as answers (b) or (e) would
entail). However, it places the teacher in a position of professional responsibility without
professional authority. Very few teachers in the United States have the power to select or
purchase their own textbooks. Inviting the interest group to propose another text is a
disingenuous (and in that sense unprofessional) answer, since the teacher would be in no
position to evaluate the merits of the proposed alternate, let alone accept or deny the
proposal. Protecting the curriculum, reforming the curriculum, or participating in a
worthy debate with local citizens are clearly not the concerns suggested by this test’s
conception of “professional” behavior. “Professionalism” here involves protecting the
teacher’s superiors and keeping the public at bay.

Inattention to Context. Many critics have raised concerns that by positing uniform, context-
free teaching behaviors and unidimensional responses to poorly defined questions, the
current measures may in fact discourage the use and acquisition of professional knowledge
and moral judgment that should underlie technique (Shulman, 1987; Darling-Hammond,
1986a; MacMillan and Pendlebury, 1985). As is true in other professions, decisions about
appropriate practice are highly context-specific. However, other professions represent
problems with much greater acknowledgment of the wide range of interacting variables
that define context and with greater attention to the kinds of knowledge that should
inform decisions. This is true even on standardized tests using multiple-choice response
formats. Compare, for example, the one-sentence NTE questions cited earlier in this
section with the rich, contextual information provided for this question on part 3 of the
National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) medical examinations:

General Information: A. 45-year-old man is admitted to the hospital because of pain in his
right hip and pelvis, especially when walking. He had lost 30 pounds in weight in the past
year, during which time he did not feel strong or well enough to work. Three months
prior to admission, he developed an acute upper respiratory infection and noted an
increase in his symptoms with generalized “pain in my bones and stiffness of my joints.”
At that time, he also noted generalized numbness with tingling and stiffness of his hands;
he had difficulty talking because his jaws and lips became stiff, making it difficult to form

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Twenty years earlier he had had similar symptoms which he described as “pain all over.”
At that time, he was studied at a hospital for bone and joint disease, where he was told he
had “osteoporosis.” During the intervening years, he has been relatively well.

Physical examination: Temperature is 37.0 C (98.6 F); pulse rate is 80 per minute and
regular; blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg. The patient is well developed and appears well
nourished. The lungs are clear to percussion and auscultation. The heart is normal in size;
there are no murmurs. The abdomen is protuberant but no masses or organs are palpable.
There is tenderness in the right groin on palpation but no mass can be felt. There is 2+
edema of the legs but the extremities are otherwise normal. Neurological examination
shows no abnormalities. Walking causes severe pain in the right hip and pelvis as well as
pain in the feet.

Initial laboratory studies: Results of the following tests are given in this section: hemoglobin,
hematocrit, leukocyte count, erythrocyte count, urine, and roentgenogram of the chest,
(excerpted from NBME, 1986)

Following the presentation of these data, the candidate is asked, in turn, to note which
inquiries he or she will make of the patient (and, using a special pen that illuminates
answers, is given information on another page telling what the results of those inquiries
are), what additional observations or measures he or she will make (with similar feedback
about findings), what additional studies he or she will undertake, and, based on the
findings, what therapy he or she will advise (Wise and Darling-Hammond, 1987, PP. 65-

Similarly elaborate case scenarios with accompanying data can be found on licensing
examinations in law and engineering and on the registration examination in architecture.
In addition to providing context-rich questions, testing in other professions goes beyond
multiple-choice paper-and-pencil tests of basic information. Doctors are interviewed (and
sometimes observed) by a panel of their peers about past and hypothetical diagnostic and
treatment decisions in specific cases; lawyers apply their legal reasoning and writing skills
in essays that analyze cases and develop lines of argument; architects design structures;
accountants solve problems of accounting practice. The emphasis is not primarily on
finding the “right answer” but is on the candidate’s ability to apply knowledge and
judgment in professionally acceptable ways.

An example from the California bar examination’s performance test (Klein, 1982)
illustrates this approach to examining professional thinking:

TITLE: Trial Brief

TIME: 90 minutes

MATERIALS: Special Instruction Sheet

Deposition Summary
Client interview notes

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In this task, you are to prepare a trial brief for submission prior to trial. This brief should
be limited to the two issues specified on the Special Instruction Sheet.

Your brief should:

(1) Contain concise headings that relate the law and the facts to each other.
(2) Contain persuasive arguments that relate legal principles and factual circumstances
in a way that supports your position on each issue.
(3) Resolve conflicts, if any, between legal authorities.
(4) Draw analogies and make distinctions, as appropriate, between materials in the
mini-library and the circumstances of your case.
(5) Point out weaknesses in opposing counsel’s likely position.
(6) Discuss policy and other implications, if any, of your and/or opposing counsel’s
(7) Present ideas clearly and persuasively, be well organized and concise; and employ
lawyer-like terms and style.

This kind of performance task draws on many areas of knowledge about the law, as well as
on skills of legal reasoning within the context of a common legal task—writing a brief.
Important contextual considerations are not ignored; rather, they serve as the primary grist
for analysis by the candidate. It is the capacity to evaluate and respond to these
considerations that is of primary importance in the task.

By contrast, efforts to measure teaching knowledge without reference to the contextual

factors and multiple bodies of knowledge that must guide teaching decisions fail to capture
the essence of pedagogy while threatening to undermine effective teacher preparation.
Furthermore, the traditional approach to teacher testing, which separates tests of subject
matter from tests of pedagogical knowledge, is also inadequate. The interrelations between
subject-matter knowledge and knowledge of learners and pedagogy make it virtually
impossible to think meaningfully about teaching and content without considering learners
and context. As Mary Kennedy (1991a) observed in her concluding chapter to Teaching
Academic Subjects to Diverse Learners:

Teachers do not teach academic subjects in the absence of diverse learners, nor do they
teach diverse learners in the absence of academic subjects. The interdependence between
these two objects of teaching is apparent in the chapters in this volume, for even though
each author was asked to write about either an academic subject or an aspect of diverse
learners, most actually wrote about both academic subjects and diverse learners. It proved
hard to discuss one without considering the other; academic subjects and diverse learners
are the yin and the yang of teaching—opposing and yet complementary forces. Teachers
must respond to the demands of each, yet must do so within the constraints imposed by
the other, (pp. 275-276)

Ultimately, the profession must develop strategies for assessing teaching that allow for
contextualized evaluations of teacher judgment and skill. These evaluations should
anticipate that many different teaching decisions and behaviors will occur based on the
demands of the teaching situation.

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Validity Issues. The limited validity of most currently used teacher tests has been reviewed
elsewhere (see, e.g., Haney, Madaus, and Kreitzer, 1987; Quirk, Witten, and Weinberg,
1973). Few studies of the predictive validity of state-developed tests have been conducted.
A study that examined the relationship between beginning teachers’ scores on the Georgia
tests of subject-matter knowledge and ratings of on-the-job performance found both
positive and negative, although generally insignificant, correlations (SREB, 1982).
Similarly, although NTE scores correlate with other standardized tests of general academic
ability (Ayers and Quails, 1979; Pitcher, 1962; Quirk, Witten, and Weinberg, 1973),
consistent relationships between test scores and later teaching performance have not been
found (Andrews, Blackmon, and Mackey, 1980; Ayers and Quails, 1979; Quirk, Witten,
and Weinberg, 1973; Summers and Wolfe, 1975).

In a recent review, Haney and colleagues found that almost no research exists confirming
the predictive and construct validity of the National Teacher Examinations. They suggest
that the high intercorrelations among components of the NTE Core Battery may mean
that it measures general aptitude and test-taking skills rather than mastery of a professional
education curriculum (Haney, Madaus, and Kreitzer, 1987; Nelson in Mitchell, 1985).
Few other teacher tests have even been examined in terms of predictive validity to allow
for conclusions.

It is easy to talk of raising standards for teacher preparation and entry. It is even relatively
easy, as we have recently seen, to pass laws requiring more selectivity in entry, including
specific tests. However, once the trappings of rigor have been adopted, the basis of
confidence in a profession is that these standards can, in fact, be shown to enhance the
knowledge and ability of those admitted to practice.

Teaching tests that rely on simplistic views of teaching not only inadequately assess teacher
knowledge and fail to advance the development of a knowledge base but they eliminate
many candidates from teaching on grounds that are tenuous. Thus, shortages are
exacerbated and pressures to create loopholes are increased while the capacities of those
who enter teaching are not clearly improved (Darling-Hammond, 1989b). To compound
the problem, recently mandated teacher licensing tests have become barriers to entry for
minorities, who pass at significantly lower rates than whites (Garibaldi, 1987; Goertz and
Pitcher, 1985; Graham, 1987; Haney, Madaus, and Kreitzer, 1987). Indeed, the disparities
are significantly larger than those on other commonly administered tests of general ability
and achievement (Haney, Madaus, and Kreitzer, 1987), heightening questions about what
the tests really measure.

In a simulation using existing data about the predictive validity of the NTE as a measure
of later teaching performance and an assumed cut-score that would eliminate 10 percent
of all candidates, Walter Haney, George Madaus, and Amelia Kreitzer (1987, p. 219)
found that 80 percent of the rejections would be false, as compared with about 10 percent
of acceptances. They concluded:

From a public policy point of view—even accepting the proposition that the purpose of
teacher tests is not to predict the degree of teacher success, but simply to protect the
public from incompetent teachers—we need to examine the way in which current teacher
tests affect the pool of people who do become teachers. Even if federal courts do not

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

demand that we look at the relationship between teacher-test results and available
measures of teacher quality, rational policy making demands that we look at how the
screening mechanisms of current teacher tests are affecting the characteristics and qualities
of the teacher corps…These results indicate clearly that current teacher tests, and the
manner in which cut-scores are being set on them, are differentiating among candidates far
more strongly on the basis of race than they are on the basis of teacher quality (pp. 223,

Thus, while reducing the supply of minority candidates, the tests fail to heighten the
profession’s claim to meaningful standards. Paradoxically, in the midst of initiatives to
revise admissions and exit criteria for teacher education, states continue to issue tens of
thousands of emergency, provisional, temporary, and alternative certificates. Fully 9
percent of new entrants to teaching in 1985 were not properly licensed (Recent College
Graduates Survey, 1985, cited in Darling-Hammond, 1990c). Ironically, minority
candidates are those least likely to enter teaching through these backdoor routes (Darling-
Hammond, 1990c) and the most likely to be properly qualified; however, the supply of
minority college students interested in teaching decreased sharply throughout the 1980s.
Thus, in teaching, strategies for regulating the labor market have created a dual
credentialing system that simultaneously retards efforts to improve teaching quality and
decreases diversity in the teaching force.

Regardless of whether standards are being ostensibly raised or lowered, though, the
substance of standards—that is, the extent and kinds of knowledge they reflect—remains
outside the hands of the profession. Since tests “[transfer] control over the curriculum to
the agency which sets or controls the exam” (Madaus, 1988, p. 97), and certification
loopholes are created by state legisiators, both the content of teacher education curricula
and the endorsement of teachers are divorced from professional control.

Rather than being determined by state agencies or external testing agencies, testing in
other professions is managed by members of the profession, who are charged with
developing and scoring the examinations as well as defining the standards for internships
and other entry requirements. This increases the chances that the assessments will be valid
representations of professional tasks and modes of thinking.

By contrast, teacher tests are typically constructed by professional item writers, although
advisory boards of teachers sometimes review item specifications or content categories.
Meanwhile, test makers’ “validation” studies of teacher tests have not attempted to discern
any connection between candidates’ test scores and their later teaching performance, nor
have they subjected the test content to intensive professional scrutiny and modification.
Instead, the approach used by test developers is to survey education program faculty
members and, in some cases, practitioners, asking them to rate whether test content
categories can be said to be represented in the teacher education curriculum or are
perceived as important in the job of teaching.

Respondents are not asked whether the questions themselves are good representations of
how teachers use knowledge or skill or whether the answers proposed represent
reasonable approaches to the resolution of teaching dilemmas. The results of such surveys
are not used to alter the content of the tests but, instead, to set cutoff scores for passing.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Thus, test items in which educators have little confidence remain on the tests even after
“validation” has been accomplished, and areas that have been ignored are not added.
Equally important, this approach to test construction does not produce a coherent
statement of what teachers should know and be able to do, thus providing no guidance for
either professional education or teaching practice.

Edward Haertel (1991) summarized the many concerns expressed by researchers and
members of the profession:

The teacher tests now in common use have been strenuously and justifiably criticized for
their content, their format, and their impacts, as well as the virtual absence of criterion-
related validity evidence supporting their use…These tests have been criticized for treating
pedagogy as generic rather than subject-matter specific, for showing poor criterion-related
validity or failing to address criterion-related validity altogether, for failing to measure
many critical teaching skills, and for their adverse impact on minority representation in the
teaching profession, (pp. 3-4)

Mismeasuring Performance

In part because of dissatisfaction with the usefulness of existing paper-and-pencil tests,

during the 1980s many states turned to performance assessments of teaching skills. In
nearly a dozen states, primarily in the South, beginning teachers are granted an initial
license to teach when they have satisfied educational and other certification requirements.
They are granted a regular or continuing license only after they have secured a teaching
job and passed an on-the-job performance evaluation. However, “like the current written
examinations these observational methods have been strongly criticized…for trivializing
teaching proficiency and for reinforcing a single, narrow conception of effective teaching”
(Haertel, 1991, p. 5).

The first generation of such tests of teaching skills, developed in Florida and Georgia and
used throughout the southeast and elsewhere, involves observing novice teachers at work
and rating their teaching behavior according to a predetermined checklist. The structure
of most of these programs is similar: Assistance and assessment teams of one to three
people (usually an administrator, a “mentor” teacher, and a state department or university
education department representative) are to observe new teachers two or three times
during the first year. Observers are usually trained to use state-developed performance
observation instruments that list criteria deduced from a portion of the teaching-
effectiveness literature. In some cases, new teachers are given a development plan to
follow. In addition to a varying number of formative evaluations, at least one summative
evaluation is required during the first year.

If new teachers fail to demonstrate the behaviors designated as indicators for the required
list of competencies, they are to receive assistance from the team or attend staff
development (Goertz, 1988). Those who still fail to master the competencies cannot
receive a teaching license. Thus, supervision is focused on the specific behaviors required
by the form rather than on actual problems of practice (Borko, 1986). As Fox and

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Singletary (1986) pointed out: “Few [programs] focus on the goals of developing a
reflective orientation and the skills essential to self-evaluation.”

This first-generation effort is correctly concerned with performance. However, the

technique employed falls short of adequately discriminating between those who are and
those who are not fit to practice. These early efforts suffered from three major

1. The rating instruments seek to promise objectivity by specifying a set of generic

uniform teaching behaviors that are tallied in a small number of classroom
observations. In so doing, they fail to assess the appropriateness of teaching
behaviors and decisions, and they completely neglect teaching content.

2. The assessment systems do not evaluate candidates in similar job settings and
performance situations.

3. Licensing assessments are made in part by employers who are also responsible for
hiring and for granting tenure, thereby entangling licensing and employment
decisions in conflicts of interest.

Inadequate Rating Systems. Despite the shortcomings of process-product research reviewed

in Chapter 2, the conversion of teacher effects research findings to uniform rules for
teacher behavior is a cornerstone of these performance-based teacher evaluation models.
Many of these evaluation instruments expect the teacher to exhibit standard behaviors that
are identical across classrooms, regardless of the subject matter being taught, the goals of a
particular lesson, the ages or other characteristics of the students, or other features of the
classroom environment. The models implicitly assume that the rules are generalizable
because student outcomes are determined primarily by particular uniform teaching
behaviors. By implication, the models assume either that other contextual influences on
student outcomes are relatively unimportant or that these other influences do not call for
different teaching behaviors in order for teaching to be effective.

At this point, research on teaching has demonstrated that the assumptions underlying such
assessments of uniform teaching behaviors are seriously flawed. The subset of “effective
teaching” research used to support most of these early evaluation strategies has unearthed
many of its own limitations—for example, that teaching behaviors found effective in some
situations are not effective or even counterproductive when used too much or under the
wrong circumstances (Peterson and Kauchak, 1982; Medley, 1977; Soar, 1972). Because
important context variables change the relationship between a given behavior and its
outcome, effective teachers, in fact, vary their behaviors across teaching situations
(Shavelson and Dempsey-Atwood, 1976; Stodolsky, 1984). As Jere Brophy and Carolyn
Evertson (1976) observed:

Effective teaching requires the ability to implement a very large number of diagnostic,
instructional, managerial, and therapeutic skills, tailoring behavior in specific contexts and
situations to the specific needs of the moment. Effective teachers not only must be able to
do a large number of things; they also must be able to recognize which of the many things

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

they know how to do applies at a given moment and be able to follow through by
performing the behavior effectively.

However, rather than legitimizing this complexity, as professions must when they begin to
codify their knowledge base and seek to establish standards for entry (Starr, 1982), the
first-generation teacher assessments have reinforced conceptions of teaching as simple,
cookbook-driven work.

Sometimes, the limitations of such simple applications are pointed out by additional
process-product research. For example, in one study seeking to validate Georgia’s Teacher
Performance Assessment Instrument, two of the instrument’s behaviors actually produced
significant negative correlations with teachers’ effectiveness as measured by student
achievement gains (Ellett, Capie, and Johnson, 1981).

One behavior—the way in which the teacher “attends to routine tasks”—was significantly
and negatively related to students’ progress in both reading and mathematics. Another—
the way in which the teacher “specifies and selects learner objectives for lessons”—was
significantly and negatively related to students’ progress in mathematics. Interestingly,
related planning behaviors concerning the selection of procedures, materials, and
assessments were also negatively related to students’ mathematics progress, although not
significantly. These negative relationships lead one to question whether the behavioral
indicators selected were based on a notion of planning as rigid, too highly specified, or
inattentive to student characteristics—all of which have been found to undermine effective
teacher planning.

This example illustrates another concern about many of these instruments: that they
frequently focus on attributes of teaching that are trivial but easy to measure, emphasizing
such indicators as “starts class on time” and “keeps a brisk pace of instruction,” along with
“managing routines” and “writing behavioral objectives.” In focusing on easily observed
generic behaviors derived from one small subset of the body of research on teaching, the
guts of teaching and learning are largely ignored. As Lee S. Shulman (1986, p. 13) noted:

What policymakers fail to understand is that there is an unavoidable constraint on any

piece of research in any discipline. To conduct a piece of research, scholars must
necessarily narrow their scope, focus their view, and formulate a question far less complex
than the form in which the real world presents itself in practice. This holds true for any
piece of research; there are no exceptions. It is certainly true of the corpus of research on
teaching effectiveness that serves as the basis for these contemporary approaches to teacher
evaluation. In their necessary simplification of classroom teaching, investigators ignored
one central aspect of classroom life: subject matter.

Even when studies have noted the contextual limitations of process-product research, such
findings have often been ignored when research has been translated into supervision and
evaluation schemes. This simplification of findings occurred so as to avoid a situation in
which evaluators would have to make judgments about appropriateness. Although they
were constructed to provide “objective” data ensuring high reliability by using low-
inference tallies of behavior, these “evaluator-proof” rating systems seriously misrepresent
both the act of teaching and the findings of research on teaching (Wise and Darling-

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Hammond, 1987). Meanwhile, other bodies of research—such as research on cognition,

child development, motivation and behavior, subject specific pedagogy, and effective
schooling—are typically not included in the evaluation protocols focused on generic
teaching behaviors (Darling-Hammond, i986b; Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Pease,
1983; French, Hodzkom, and Kuligowski, 1990).


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Katie Haycock and the Education Trust,2 which she heads, do not dispute the importance of
pedagogy as a part of teacher preparation. They do, however, deplore the lack of content knowledge
in many teacher education programs and they are particularly disturbed about the low expectations
with respect to content knowledge in teacher licensing examinations.

Document #2: Education Trust, “Not good enough: A content analysis of teacher
licensing examinations,” Special issue of Thinking K-16 (Washington, D.C., Education
Trust, 1999)

Foreword. Over the past six months, we have been asked on countless occasions why
we are spending so much time on teacher quality issues these days. People seem surprised
that an organization whose mission is squarely focused on closing the achievement gap
separating poor and minority students from other young Americans would be pushing so
hard for higher standards for teachers. “Set higher standards for teachers,” they say, “and
minority kids will suffer because they will have fewer teachers who look like them.”

The Education Trust’s mission reads as follows: “The Education Trust works for the high academic
achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college, and forever closing the
achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet
is this — All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.”

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Let us be clear from the beginning that we reject categorically the assertion that higher
standards inevitably mean fewer minority teachers. Underneath that argument is a thinly
veiled suggestion that people of color are somehow unable to meet high standards. Yet all
of our experience suggests just the opposite: minority and low-income students, including
education students, can meet high standards if they are taught to high standards. The point
is not to set standards below where they should be out of some misguided sympathy–or
equally misguided belief that what minority kids need most is teachers who simply look
like them. Rather, the point is to raise the quality and intensity of the education they

Why We Care

To those who argue–for reasons of diversity or because of fears about supply–that the
standards should be kept where they are, we make a simple suggestion.

• First, go spend time sitting in the back of classrooms, especially classrooms in high-
poverty schools. Or join our staff as they work with teachers in those classrooms.
You’ll see some stunningly good teachers, but you will also see teachers who quite
obviously cannot get their students to state or local standards because they,
themselves, don’t meet them.

• Then, once you have a feel for the problem, take a look at the growing body of
research on teacher quality and student achievement, much of it summarized in
the Education Trust’s Good Teaching Matters or What Matters Most from the
National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Both of these reports
underscore a simple fact: teacher quality is the single most important factor in
student achievement.

• Look, too, at who gets our weakest teachers: the very students who most need our
best. In the end, if you spend as much time in high-poverty schools as we do, you
can’t not care about teacher quality. Well-educated and well-supported teachers
can help all children to soar to heights literally unimaginable to their poorly
educated and poorly supported peers.

Unfortunately, existing mechanisms are not even close to adequate for assuring teacher
quality. Seven states have no licensing examinations for teachers. The remaining 44 (we
include D.C.) require examinations, but the combination of too-low content and too-low
passing scores renders these systems effective in excluding only the weakest of the weak.
This does not mean that all teachers are poorly prepared. On the contrary, both our own
experiences and recent research prove that many teachers are wonderfully educated. Such
teachers often tell us that they are insulted by the low level of content exams.

But the insults to children are even greater. Many are being shortchanged daily by poorly
prepared teachers because we have failed to set high enough standards for entry into the
field of teaching.

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Every American should be deeply concerned about the information in this report. But
low-income families, as well as those of color, should be most worried of all, for the
simple reason that the schools that serve them are the most likely to hire from the bottom
of the pack.

That we dramatically ratcheted up our standards for students without insisting on

commensurate increases in standards for teachers is a chilling indictment of all of us: K-12
leaders, policymakers, higher educators and advocates. As they say, however, it is never
too late. There are some things that states, districts and colleges can do immediately to
reduce the problem. Other things will take more time.

We must begin now–and we must focus on:

• Rigorous preparation for intending teachers;

• Higher standards for entry into the field of teaching–including tough academic
examinations; and

• Ongoing support for current teachers.

If we are relentless about these three things, no excuses and no exceptions, our children
will succeed.

Kati Haycock, Director, Education Trust

IS CONTENT SUFFICIENT? In both our analyses and our recommendations, we

have concerned ourselves primarily with content knowledge. We have done so not
because we believe that deep content knowledge is sufficient or because we think other
things are unimportant–things like content pedagogy, knowledge of how children learn,
and belief systems, among others. (Nobody who does as much work as we do in higher
education could possibly believe that deep subject matter knowledge always equals good
teaching.) Nor, it may be important to point out, do we believe that content knowledge is
forever fixed when teachers complete their preparation. Rather, we believe that the grasp
of the core concepts and structure of a discipline with which one exits from college is a
critical foundation for teaching: if that foundation is inadequate, no instructional wizardry
can make up for it. Moreover, though there are many voices within the teacher education
reform community for the importance of pedagogy and the like, there are few such voices
raised around content, even though teachers who are furthest ahead in implementing their
state’s standards often struggle more with content than anything else.

So, for the time being at least, we’ll be a bit shrill. Until, that is, more faculty in the Arts
and Sciences join in and there is, finally, a balance in the conversation and the reform

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

How teacher licensing tests fall short.3

Teachers hold a position of public trust. The community, for its part, is responsible for
supporting the goals of education and for allocating sufficient funds to get the job done.
But ultimately, whether or not our children succeed academically depends on the
knowledge, skill and commitment of their teachers.

With so much riding on the quality of teachers, the public needs assurance that every
student is taught by professionals who know a lot about the subjects they teach. This is
especially true for students who lack resources at home. These students–much more than
their more advantaged peers–depend almost exclusively on their teachers for academic
content knowledge. Most states administer teacher licensing examinations as a kind of
guarantee that teachers know enough about their subjects. But do these tests really certify
that teachers have the breadth and depth of subject knowledge to teach all students to high

The short answer is no. Over the last year, we examined the tests most commonly used
for licensing beginning teachers. In general, state licensing requirements place more
emphasis on prospective teachers’ pedagogical knowledge than on their content
knowledge. Moreover, the subject area tests we examined are too weak to guarantee that
teachers have the content they need to teach students to high standards.

• SECONDARY EDUCATION: Whereas 44 states require candidates for secondary

licenses to take some kind of licensing examination, only 29 require them to take tests in
the subject area they will teach. The content in the subject tests, with a few (underused)
exceptions, is within easy reach of many of the students the test-takers are expected to
teach–about the same as in high-level high school courses.

• ELEMENTARY EDUCATION: Seven states have no examination requirements for

candidates for elementary certification. The remainder require examinations that cover
pedagogy and rudimentary general knowledge and skills. In general, these tests assess
verbal and mathematical literacy at about the tenth grade level.

As Lynn Steen, a national adviser to our study, put it: “Why should prospective teachers
go to college if this is all they need to know?”

The long answer to our question about the adequacy of existing licensure examinations is
a complicated tale that has its origins in good intentions, but in the end pits students’needs
against institutional interests and adults’ right to jobs. At its core, the system is designed to
prevent false negative judgments (about either candidates or the institutions that produce
them). But if we were truly concerned about students, we would be more worried about
the false positives.

Like many practices in education, the criteria for teacher licensure were established in an
era that held modest academic expectations for the majority of young people. In the last

This section is written by Ruth Mitchell, Ph.D., and Patte Barth, both with The Education Trust.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

decade, however, K-12 education began a transformation: high academic standards are
now the expectation for all, not some students. But while we raised standards for students,
we have yet to make corresponding increases in standards for teaching.

Unfortunately, raising the level of teacher licensing examinations is no simple matter. The
process for defining both test content and what constitutes “passing” takes many factors
into account that compete directly with the goal of certifying that candidates have a strong
command of subject matter. Projections of teacher supply and demand, protection for the
state and university against legal challenges by unsuccessful candidates, and the authority of
universities are all considered in the licensing equation.

State licensure policies also rest on assumptions about matters that do not enter the
licensing equation but should. Many assume, for example, that the act of majoring or
passing a certain number of courses in accredited universities in itself certifies a sufficient
level of content knowledge. Licensure policies also typically assume that what beginning
teachers don’t know now they will learn in time. Underlying the whole process is the
assumption that teachers only need to know the content that is expected of their students,
and maybe just a little bit more. For all these reasons, licensure examinations don’t contain
as much content as we believe fully qualified teachers need in order to educate all students
to high levels of understanding.

Another wrinkle in the process is the establishment of passing scores—the cut-off point
between passing and failing the licensing examination. Passing scores are not set by the test
publisher; rather they are established state by state. In some states, candidates can pass
subject-matter exams by correctly answering as few as half the test items. In areas of short
supply, states may still require candidates to take the test, but will waive the requirement
for minimum performance. In such cases, any old score will do. Far from a guarantee of
high professional standards, certification requirements often define teaching down, even
while public demands for teacher performance are being ratcheted up.

There are no bad guys to blame for this situation. Officials who make certification policies
are pushed to balance teacher shortages, growing student enrollments, the demand to
reduce class size AND make sure a teacher is in every classroom. The colleges that prepare
teachers struggle to respond to what often seem to be conflicting state mandates and
confusing messages from school districts about what is important. At the same time,
universities want to protect both the academic freedom of professors and the right of
students to choose how to fulfill core academic requirements. Up and down the line there
is concern about the potential impact on the quantity and diversity of the teacher force if
the bar is raised high. The pressures on state policymakers are to minimize. In the end, test
publishers respond by giving their customers what they say they want: a reliable method
for measuring the lowest possible teaching competencies that can hold up in court.

The institutional and logistical issues that influence the makeup of teacher exams are real.
Yet they have been allowed to overshadow what should be the paramount consideration
of teacher certification: Can this individual teach all students to high, not minimum,

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

We looked at one aspect of this question, content knowledge, because we find it is the
most neglected in teacher education reform. In addition, although it is by no means the
only characteristic of a good teacher, we believe content knowledge is the most central.
Without it, no manner of teaching skill can possibly yield high student achievement.


Because we were interested in how much teachers know about their subjects, we looked
only at examinations of subject matter and general knowledge; we did not examine tests of
pedagogical skills and knowledge. There are too many content examinations for the scope
of this study. We therefore limited our study to English/language arts, mathematics and
science. Within these subjects, in order to be as fair as possible, we devoted most of our
attention to the highest level tests currently used.

The study was guided by the following questions:

• What is the approximate grade level of this test? We wanted to gauge when the content
covered on the test is normally taught and learned. Our grade level designation is a
judgment of the test as a whole. It represents the grade in school or the year in college at
which a typical student would have learned enough to answer most of the test questions

Our assignment of “grade level” does not take into account passing scores. However, it’s
important to note again that teachers can become licensed in some states by correctly
answering as few as 45% of the test items. While it’s not possible to say exactly how such a
low passing score affects the designation of grade level, it is likely to reduce the test’s
effective difficulty level substantially.

• How challenging are the test questions? We evaluated the degree of sophistication demanded
by each test item. “Simple” items required only one step and a simple procedure, for
example, the simple recall of factual information. On the high end were “complex”
problems that required multi-step strategies involving more than one domain, for
example, a math problem that draws on concepts from both algebra and geometry…

• Is this knowledge relevant to teaching? While we assumed that teachers should know a great
deal more than their students, we also wanted to see if the content is connected to what
they will be expected to teach. For example, linear algebra is typically not encountered
until college. However, the depth of understanding that linear algebra can develop is
relevant to teaching algebra in middle and high school, and probably to algebraic concepts
at the elementary level as well.

Our team of analysts went through each test item by item, answering each question as if
we were teacher candidates ourselves. Items were classified according to the dimensions
listed above. The conclusions summarized in this report are based on the initial
documentation by the team and validation from our national panel of advisers…

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts


We found a few things to admire, a lot of disappointment and one huge gaping hole. One
bright spot was the series of “essay” examinations published by ETS, which required
candidates to demonstrate their depth of knowledge. The essays tended to cover more
sophisticated content, although not quite at the level of a B.A. On a discouraging note,
the essays are required by far fewer states than the lower level multiple-choice versions.

We were also impressed by the sample items for the Massachusetts literacy and
communications skills exam published by NES. These questions, in the words of Dan
Jones on our advisory panel, were “of a higher degree of complexity and expectation than
any of the others we looked at.” States that contract with NES define the content and
level of the assessments and there is considerable variation among NES examinations.
Because we did not have access to the complete Massachusetts exam, we cannot make
statements about its overall quality, particularly since the one NES-published test we
reviewed did not reflect the same complexity as the Massachusetts sample items. But what
we were able to see showed considerable promise.

In contrast to these few bright spots, the majority of tests we examined were multiple-
choice assessments dominated by high-school level material. A few, notably in science,
devoted a significant proportion of questions to content learned in middle school. Dan
Jones found many of the English language arts questions “disappointing,” saying that these
tests offer “empty generalizations as the right answers.”

According to our consultants and reviewers, most of the tests we examined could be easily
handled by advanced high school students. Lynn Steen asserted that the math tests “could
be passed by a B+ student upon leaving high school.” When one factors in the low
passing scores in some states, passing a licensing exam can mean nothing more than a high
school diploma.

We found no evidence of content at the baccalaureate level. Although a bachelor’s degree

in itself may not certify that the content is relevant to teaching a K-12 curriculum, we did
expect to see content demanding a level of sophistication acquired through four years in
college. Not one test was up to the level of a graduating college senior.

More to the point, we did not find the content that our panel believes is essential for
teachers charged with getting all students to high standards. This “knowledge for
teaching” involves the deep mastery of an academic subject that goes beyond, but is still
connected to, the level of highest student achievement in K-12. It also equips teachers to
answer the perennial question from students—”Why are we learning this?”—with reasons
based on understanding of the discipline, rather than “Because you will need it in the next
course.” Many educators are familiar with the term “pedagogical content knowledge”
which includes being able to find cognitive bridges such as metaphors, pictures, or

Out of the 21 states using ETS secondary English language arts examinations, only nine have selected the
English Language, Literature and Composition: Essays. The Mathematics: Proofs, Models and Problems
exams are used in only seven of the 22 states administering ETS secondary mathematics assessments.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

manipulatives that enable students to understand concepts.5 For example, the Praxis II
Mathematics: Pedagogy test asks candidates to write on this question:

A small group of students in your seventh-grade math class is unable to determine whether
two fractions are equivalent. Describe a strategy, using pictures or manipulatives, that you
could use to help foster the students’conceptual understanding of equivalent fractions.
Your strategy should stress understanding of what it means for fractions to be equivalent
and the development of the ability to determine whether fractions are equivalent.

What this question does not require, and mathematics pedagogical content knowledge as
such does not encompass, is the understanding of equivalence as an essential component of
mathematical thinking. A seventh-grade teacher should be able to inspire students by
referring to equivalence as a technique in sophisticated proofs. This is the understanding
that we are calling “knowledge for teaching.” In other words, middle school teachers need
to know how seventh-grade math is foundational to very sophisticated mathematical

All teachers, including elementary teachers, need to understand not only the structure of
the academic discipline, but how, by organizing knowledge in specific forms, it
contributes to understanding of the world. They should know why our civilization values
the knowledge they are imparting to students, so that they can convey some of the passion
for beauty and order that their discipline embodies.

Knowledge for teaching is a gaping hole in licensing examinations. For this reason alone,
we cannot say that any of these tests satisfies our first question: Do these tests certify that
teachers have sufficient subject knowledge to teach all students to high standards?

While none of these tests adequately addresses content, some of them were found to be
better than others. A summary of the tests follows.


It is difficult to evaluate the content knowledge in elementary licensing examinations. The

tests that elementary teachers most commonly take are concerned largely with pedagogy,
not subject matter knowledge, and therefore lie outside this study. However, many states
require a test of basic literacy for all prospective teachers, which by default becomes the
“content” test for elementary teachers.

Both ETS and NES provide basic literacy or general knowledge tests. Overall, these tests
were characterized by simple recognition or recall of general subject matter. A typical
treatment of content is seen in this literature question:

The ability of Stephen Jay Gould in his book Full House (New York: Random House, 1997) to explain
statistical probabilities rests on a wide range of metaphors, from baseball to the sidewalk wanderings of a
drunk emerging from a bar.
Praxis II, Mathematics: Pedagogy (0065), 1993, p.10. This example comes from the complete tests now
released publicly.

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In the meanwhile there came along a single red ant on the hillside of this valley, evidently
full of excitement, who either had dispatched his foe, or had not yet taken part in the
battle; probably the latter, for he had lost none of his limbs; whose mother had charged
him to return with his shield or upon it. Or perchance he was some Achilles, who had
nourished his wrath apart, and had now come to avenge or rescue his Patroclus. The
[preceding] passage makes use of analogies that originate in

a) Roman mythology
b) Elizabethan drama
c) Greek epic
d) the New Testament
e) Arthurian legends

In questions like this one, the test-taker either knows the answer or does not. It reveals
nothing about the candidate’s ability to interpret, analyze or otherwise make use of this

ETS publishes the widely used Praxis I, also called the Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST),
which is a test of basic skills or literacy. NES publishes similar exams, including CBEST
for the state of California. These literacy exams are intended as qualifying tests for entry
into teacher preparation programs and are designed to be administered around the second
year of college. However, in many states these tests can be taken at any point before
licensure and many prospective teachers take them after completing their formal training.
In these states, the literacy test becomes by default a qualifying examination for teaching.
Indeed, in some states it is the only content test elementary teachers take.

Praxis I addresses only reading, writing and mathematics. None of these sections exceeded
high school level, and at least two-thirds of the mathematics items were judged to be
middle school. An analysis comparing the distribution of Praxis I math items to the 1996
National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) for mathematics (see chart below)
seems to indicate that NAEP emphasizes a better balance of mathematics, even at the
eighth grade level, than does Praxis I.

Content distribution by NAEP categories

Praxis I NAEP Grade 8 NAEP Grade 12

Number 37.5% 25% 20%
Measurement 5% 15% 15%
Geometry 15% 20% 20%
Data Analysis 20% 15% 20%
Algebra 12.5% 25% 25%
Other 10% 0% 0%

The PPST reading passages were on the level of the National Geographic, typically high
school readings but clearly accessible to middle and upper elementary school students. In

The Praxis Series, NTE Core Battery Tests, Practice and Review, Princeton NJ: ETS, 1992, p. 49

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general, the questions that referred to these passages asked for either direct recall of
information in the passage or for obvious inferences or interpretation.

Alice Fletcher, the Margaret Mead of her day, assisted several American Indian nations
that were threatened with removal from their land to the Indian Territory. She helped
them in petitioning Congress for legal titles to their farms. When no response came from
Washington, she went there herself to present their case.

According to the statement above, Alice Fletcher attempted to:

a) imitate the studies of Margaret Mead

b) obtain property rights for American Indians
c) protect the integrity of the Indian Territory
d) become a member of the United States Congress
e) persuade Washington to expand the Indian Territory

This question is simple on several levels. The reading passage itself is straightforward with
relatively simple vocabulary and syntax. The question asks only for a literal recognition of
information provided in the passage. This question might easily be found on a middle-
school reading exam.

The writing questions, or prompts, in the paper-and-pencil version were bland and
general with no specified audience or discernible purpose. An example: “Which of your
possessions would be the most difficult for you to give up or lose?” George Pullman of
the national advisory panel described the writing prompts this way: “The weakness tends
to be acontextuality – the kind of ‘once off the top of your head to no one in particular
for no reason except to test your writing’ test that is so common. The better prompts have
a clear context and a set audience and purpose.”

The basic literacy exams showed little complexity; rather the test items tended to require
only simple recall or the application of a set procedure. These tests are taken by students at
any point between two and four years into their college careers. Yet overall we found
these tests to be far less difficult than either the SAT or ACT—tests that students should
have performed on with some success in order to have been admitted to their universities
at the outset. These tests were mostly at the eighth to tenth (sometimes seventh) grade


Most of the content of the Praxis II and NES mathematics examinations can be found in a
broad high school curriculum. Only a few questions went beyond calculus or addressed
concepts typically not learned until the first two years of college. Most of the items on the
exams differed little from what can be found on a test of high school mathematics.

A notable feature of most of the mathematics tests was that mathematical definitions and
basic formulas were provided up front (e.g., formulas for the area of a triangle and the

TAAG for Praxis I, Princeton NJ: ETS, 1998, p. 43, number 4

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circumference of a circle). Even though we tended to view recall items as low level in our
analysis, this was one instance when our reviewers believed the ability to recall was
important. Lynn Steen commented that by not asking candidates to produce formulas on
demand, it’s as if the test publishers “don’t care whether candidates actually know
anything, but only whether they can carry out learned procedures.”

Of the Praxis II tests, we looked at three which contained the most advanced material.
These were Mathematics: Content Knowledge (0061); Mathematics: Proofs, Models, and
Problems, Part I and Part II (0063 and 0064). The following table summarizes the content
distribution of Mathematics: Content Knowledge, which is a 50-item multiple choice test:

Content distribution by NAEP categories

Praxis II (Math 0061) NAEP Grade 8 NAEP Grade 12

Number 10% 25% 20%
Measurement 0% 15% 15%
Geometry 34% 20% 20%
Data Analysis 10% 15% 20%
Algebra 46% 25% 25%

This distribution should be compared to the [previous] table…for the Praxis I

mathematics. Despite the obviously larger percentage of algebra items, our analysis
concluded that only eight of 50 items were clearly college level. In addition, 70% of the
items were simple, and only 16% complex.

Although the vast majority of the items did not require complex problem-solving, more
than half of the questions asked for some application of concepts to problem-solving
situations. Steen thought these multiple-choice tests contained “a significant number of
unusual questions that would exercise the metacognitive capabilities of candidates.”

In contrast, he thought the Mathematics: Proofs, Models, and Problems (0063 and 0064)
“included nothing that was not absolutely straightforward.” We considered these
examinations together because they consist of only four and three problems respectively.
We saw two forms (different years of the same test) for a total of 14 problems, ranging
from geometry to linear algebra. However, only four out of the 14 problems were
concerned with topics taught in college, and just four were considered complex.

Mathematics items in NES tests vary from the mostly routine questions in the complete
state test we reviewed to…more complex and sophisticated item[s]. The complete
secondary mathematics test we reviewed had a large number of items placed in a real-
world context, which at first sight looks like a good idea. But frequently the contexts are
thinly veiled procedural or even recall items. Many of the contexts are contrived, a few
are silly, and at least two are wrong. Some items conceal a tiny mathematical topic,
reached after wading through a heavy context.

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This math test could be answered with ease by a mathematics student after finishing AP
calculus, or even before, since the only calculus items are often included in the pre-
calculus course.

In general, the tests assess mostly tenth to eleventh grade level content. Nothing in either
the Praxis II tests or the NES tests probes the intellectual substance of college mathematics
that should equip high school teachers with robust backgrounds for dealing with the
myriad ideas that will emerge from discussion with students.


In the Praxis II series, we had to choose among a large variety of tests in several scientific
disciplines. As in the case of mathematics, we wanted to look at the tests with the highest
academic challenge. But we also had to choose those most used by states buying Praxis II
tests (for example, only 21 candidates throughout the entire country took the Physical
Science: Content Essays [0482] test between 1995 and 1998). The three most used Praxis
II tests in science that are also the most challenging are General Science: Content Essays
(0433), Biology: Content Knowledge, Part I and Part II (0231 and 0232).

Like the other Praxis II essay examinations, General Science: Content Essays has only
three questions, which candidates answer in writing. Although three questions cannot
measure the breadth of knowledge required at the secondary teaching level, the
examination assesses the candidate’s ability to use and analyze critical concepts in science
covered in introductory college courses in life science, physics, chemistry, and earth
science. The three questions broke into six parts: the most challenging were the physical
science and general science questions; of the life science questions, one required
procedural knowledge and the other only tapped recall. Three of the parts required
complex, multi-step answers, but the life science question that required recall also only
asked for a single-step answer, surprising in a test requiring written responses. This
example is typical of the science content essays in that the challenge ranges from recall to

The photometer…is used to estimate transpiration rate in plants.

A. Define the process of transpiration.

B. Identify three variables that would affect transpiration rate. Describe how the
photometer can be used to test these variables.
C. Discuss how and why a change in each variable is expected to affect the transpiration

The Biology: Content Knowledge, Part I (0231) test, with 75 multiple-choice items,
tested knowledge of the basic principles of science; molecular and cellular biology; classical
genetics and evolution; diversity of plants and animals; ecology; science, technology, and
society. Almost half of its items could be answered with simple recall of information; only
seven required multi-step problem-solving, and only 12 required the application of a

TAAG Biology and General Science, Princeton NJ: ETS. 1998, p. 69 13

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The second part of the Biology: Content Knowledge, Part II (0232) test also has 75
multiple-choice items, but they test knowledge that would be acquired in high school
advanced or honors classes and some in first-year college biology classes. The questions
covered molecular cellular biology; classical genetics and evolution; diversity in plants and
animals; and ecology. Compared with Part I, there was a considerable increase in the
number of items requiring either moderate or complex problem-solving (57 in Part II),
and in procedural or conceptual knowledge (62).

While all three of the tests examine knowledge of the “big ideas,” the concepts defined in
the National Science Education Standards and many state frameworks for science, only
Biology: Content Knowledge Part II reflects the depth of knowledge that one would
expect of a beginning teacher of biology. Biology: Content Knowledge Part I does not
cover a wide or deep enough selection of topics to adequately reflect what a high school
science teacher needs, even as a beginner.

The NES science tests, like the mathematics tests, were extremely variable. The complete
test we examined had tests in general science, biological science, chemistry, and physics. A
feature of NES examinations which differentiates them from ETS’s Praxis series is that
NES tests include pedagogical questions within the test. In the general science test, 11% of
the questions were concerned with the pedagogy of science; in the physics test, 15%; the
biological science test, 17%; and 20% in chemistry. In no case did the academic
knowledge tested go beyond grade 12 level, and a large number of the items in all four
tests were at the grade 8, 9, or 10 level (even some at grade 7). In general, the NES
complete test reflected the techniques of multiple-choice tests from 30 years ago.

On a positive note, the NES-published Massachusetts sample test again provided an

example of greater sophistication, asking for a written response to an earth science
problem on earthquakes. Eugenie Scott and George Miller wrote that this problem
“requires both scientific and engineering/social knowledge to answer all the parts ... If the
objective of the sample is to have candidates prepare for science, technology and society
(STS)-type items, then this should be effective.” However, without access to the whole
exam, it’s not possible to know if the test adequately addresses breadth as well as
candidates’ depth of knowledge of key concepts.


Secondary English/Language Arts tests are concerned with general knowledge about
literature; knowledge of grammar, style, and etymology; and knowledge of resources
(dictionaries, thesaurus, etc.). We looked at two Praxis II tests in English: English
Language, Literature, and Composition: Content Knowledge (0041) and English
Language, Literature, and Composition: Essays (0042).

We examined two forms of the Content Knowledge test, published about five years apart.
The test asked students to answer 150 items in two hours. The questions were mostly
recall items to which a student either knows the answer or doesn’t. For example:

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

If we could only get one of them new-fangled carriages that make no noise that Father
O’Rourke told him about, them with the rheumatic wheels.

The underlined word in the lines above is an example of

a) a metaphor
b) a malapropism
c) an oxymoron
d) a synecdoche

The first 65 or so items are about literature. The range is not wide: most of the items are
concerned with classic English literature, nineteenth century American literature, and a
smattering of world literature, the stuff of college survey courses. The other questions (the
majority) ask about language use, editing, etymology, and research resources (dictionaries,
thesaurus, etc.)

The test was overwhelmingly concerned with breadth of content knowledge. The result
was a superficial treatment—who wrote what, or where do you find this. Although taught
in college survey courses or in English education courses (where technical grammatical
content is often taught), the material is not conceptually too difficult for high school
students. There are no questions demanding a depth of knowledge that would enable
“people to show that they know how to do useful things with what they know,” in
George Pullman’s words.

The story was surprisingly different with the English Language, Literature, and
Composition: Essays test (0042). The test is two hours long and requires two essays. One
provides two poems, usually on the same theme, and asks for a close critical comparison.
The second essay presents an issue in the English profession: one example asks the
candidate to write on the canon and discuss attempts to expand it; another asks the
candidate to compare two schools of criticism, practical and response criticism, for
example. The scoring guides show that a high level of argument, knowledge of the
subject, and writing ability is required to receive the highest score.

The essay test demands the knowledge of the field and experience with close reading that
is typically acquired in introductory courses to the English major. It comes closer to
knowledge for teaching than other tests, but its questions are not constructed with the
specificity that would require knowledge at the level of a college graduate. We therefore
put it within the scope of a major who has completed the junior year. Even so, it remains
the highest level achieved by any of the tests we examined.

Only nine states require the Essays test (0042). Sadly more than 30 states certify secondary
English teachers without testing any writing beyond the content-less essay in the basic
skills tests. The NES single-subject tests combined pedagogical and content material, but
this time, within the same question. Here is an example from the ExCET (Texas)
Preparation Manual:

Praxis II, TAAG, English Language, Literature, and Composition: Content Knowledge (OO41)

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Write an essay in which you:

• Analyze how the speaker uses metaphor to reflect on truth and ignorance, and
• Propose learning activities for a specific secondary grade level that would help students
build an understanding of the poem and explain why you would use these activities.

[The poem is “Truth” by Gwendolyn Brooks]

In NES English/language arts secondary tests, most of the items concerned literature;
grammar and style; and pedagogy. Most of the answers to the literature questions would
be found in college survey courses, because they include examples from the best known
Greek tragedies and traditional British and American literature. Comprehension questions
include passages from American Indian and African American writers, but are all on the
level of simple recognition.

Some NES states require written essays, usually providing a challenge on the level of a first
or second-year college student. A Colorado prompt asks students to compare excerpts
from the Rig Veda and a Navajo myth, and then discuss the functions of myth with
analysis of the themes and stylistic devices of the two passages. While a college-level
challenge, this prompt does not draw on the specific knowledge of issues in literary
criticism to be expected of an upper division college student, as does the essay question
cited from the Praxis II test, English Language, Literature and Composition: Essays (0042).


Our judgments about the licensing exams are based on a best case scenario. In estimating
the test level, we assumed that all items had been answered correctly. In the real world, of
course, there are passing scores, which establish the cut-off point between pass and fail.
Passing scores are set by the individual states and can vary considerably for the same test.
For example, on the Praxis II test, Mathematics: Content Knowledge (0061)—a test we
estimated to be at the advanced high-school level—required scores range from Oregon’s
high with a scaled score of 147 to Georgia’s low at 124. At the high end, an Oregonian
need only answer about 65% of the questions correctly to begin teaching high school
mathematics. In Georgia, a prospective mathematics teacher can become licensed by
correctly answering fewer than half (about 46%) of the test items. Ironically, students
would receive “Fs” for producing such scores in the classroom, yet this is all states require
of their teachers.

Passing scores for other teacher licensing tests show similar patterns of variation among
states as well as a tendency for dumbing down. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than
in the widely used Praxis I, a basic literacy test that we judged to be at about the tenth to
eleventh grade level. In most of the 25 states using this test, an elementary teacher can
become certified by correctly answering somewhere between 47 and 61% of the reading
and mathematics items. A few states have raised their Praxis I cut scores in highly
publicized efforts to raise teacher quality. In Virginia, for example, prospective teachers

The Praxis II scaled scores are unweighted, making a straight percentage of correct items a relevant

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must now meet a scaled score of 178, or correctly answer about 71 to 76% of the test
items. However, at best, this translates into a mediocre performance on a high school level

Because licensing exams are reported only on a pass-fail basis, there is no way of knowing
if successful candidates score high or just barely make the cut. Certainly, bright teacher
candidates breeze through these tests and many report feeling insulted by the tests’ low
level. Failing these tests sends a clear signal that the candidate is unsuitable for teaching.
But passing does not tell us whether prospective teachers know enough content to teach


The content in subject-matter licensing exams is not, as one might expect, a deliberate,
well-considered statement of what teachers should know in order to be qualified
professionals. Licensing examinations are meant to establish a floor. In fact, the process
used to define test specifications and validate items pushes content levels to the basement.

Both NES and ETS are providing their customers, the states, with the product they ask
for. These publishers guarantee that licensing exams are psychometrically sound. In
addition, the tests have undergone a validation process designed to assure that they can
withstand potential legal challenge of the sort recently experienced by Alabama. Such

Richardson v. Lamar County (AL) Bd. of Educ. 1989

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Praxis I Math—Passing Scores by State 1998-99

State Passing Score Estimated % Correct % of Test Takers

to Pass Nationally Who
Would Fail to Make
this Cut
Virginia 178 68-73% 44
Hawaii 176 60-65% 36
Oregon 175 60-65% 31
Florida 175 60-65% 31
Kansas 174 60-65% 26
D.C. 174 60-65% 26
Delaware 174 60-65% 26
Alaska 173 53-58% 22
Wisconsin 173 53-58% 22
North Carolina 173 53-58% 22
Kentucky 173 53-58% 22
Georgia 173 53-58% 22
West Virginia 172 53-58% 18
New Hampshire 172 53-58% 18
Maine 172 53-58% 18
South Carolina 172 53-58% 18
Arkansas 171* 53-58% 15
Oklahoma 171 53-58% 15
Nebraska 171 53-58% 15
Texas 171 53-58% 15
Nevada 170 45-50% 12
Montana 170 45-50% 12
Tennessee 169 45-50% 10
Mississippi 169 45-50% 10
Minnesota 169 45-50% 10

*Effective July 1999

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Praxis I Reading—Passing Scores by State 1998-99

State Passing Score Estimated % Correct % of Test Takers

to Pass Nationally Who
Would Fail to Make
this Cut
Virginia 178 71-76% 43
North Carolina 176 63-68% 30
Alaska 175 63-68% 24
Delaware 175 63-68% 24
Hawaii 175 63-68% 24
South Carolina 175 63-68% 24
Wisconsin 175 63-68% 24
New Hampshire 174 63-68% 19
Oregon 174 63-68% 19
Kansas 173 55-61% 16
Kentucky 173 55-61% 16
Maine 173 55-61% 16
Minnesota 173 55-61% 16
Oklahoma 173 55-61% 16
D.C. 172 55-61% 12
Florida 172 55-61% 12
Georgia 172 55-61% 12
Nevada 172 55-61% 12
West Virginia 172 55-61% 12
Arkansas 172* 55-61% 12
Texas 172 55-61% 12
Mississippi 170 47-53% 8
Montana 170 47-53% 8
Nebraska 170 47-53% 8
Tennessee 169 47-53% 6

*Effective July 1999

concern has led test developers to include only content that they can prove a beginning
teacher actually uses in his or her practice. This practice reduces the likelihood that tests
will contain content higher than the high school level. The minimalist approach to
content is justified by an assumption that professional growth and knowledge will occur
over time. However, there is no evidence that indeed this happens among all teachers.

Tests are validated in a multi-phase process. Content specifications are provided by groups
of teachers and representatives of professional organizations such as the National Council
of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National
Science Teachers Association, and so on. Because NES contracts individually with states,
these specifications are provided by the customer.

A bank of items and/or objectives is then developed by subject specialists, test experts and
teachers. The tests are validated by panels comprised mostly of novice teachers who have
less than five years of experience. The panels consider two questions about each item: “Is
the knowledge in this question used in my teaching?” and “What percentage of beginning
teachers would answer it correctly?” The panel reviews are a fundamental part of the

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process of validating test content. These findings are also considered in establishing passing
scores, as are projected supply and demand of teachers by field and impact statements on
minority candidates.

Unless a state suddenly experiences a glut of prospective teachers (hardly likely when most
are claiming shortages) this process cannot accommodate raising the bar on licensing
exams. In fact, over time the process itself creates a downward spiral of expectations.


The reason for a minimal approach to teacher licensing is at root legal: litigation has
established that entry-level qualifications must have direct relevance to the job. The
analogy is with trade: a carpenter cannot be required to pass an examination in calculus if
calculus is never used in framing. Thus, test publishers build a firewall against litigation by
checking with early-career teachers about the knowledge they claim to use on the job.

We believe the trade analogy undermines the professional status of teachers. Other
professionals—including lawyers, accountants, doctors and nurses—must pass tests that are
notoriously tough. Often, as these professionals advance in their fields, they must pass still
other exams which specifically test their increasing content knowledge. Not so in

Many of those involved with licensing policy want to avoid unfairly excluding people
from becoming teachers. While conducting this study, we also heard over and over again
that the purpose of licensing was to assure that beginning teachers would do no harm. But
we know from research that poorly prepared teachers do harm. And they do the most
harm to the students who have the least support to fall back on for their academic

Clearly, states have an interest in preventing lengthy suits. Schools of education have an
interest in showing high success rates among their graduates. School administrators, too,
have an interest in filling vacancies.

But all of these factors conspire to keep licensing criteria minimal. Lost in this process is
the students’ interest in having teachers who have the content knowledge needed to help
them reach new and higher academic standards.


Several states are attempting to raise licensing requirements. A few, like Massachusetts, are
making efforts to install higher level tests. Other states, notably Maryland and Virginia, are
raising passing scores. But while the attempts are laudable, raising passing scores on low-
level examinations will produce only modest returns in the long run. What’s needed to
assure a higher caliber teacher corps is a reevaluation of the assumptions and goals upon
which the current tests are based.
See Haycock, Kati, “Good Teaching Matters,” Thinking K-16, Summer 1998, Washington DC:
Education Trust.

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The first assumption that needs to be reexamined is that teachers’ content knowledge
grows over time. If true, a minimal approach to licensing is certainly less risky. Yet there is
no structure to ensure that a teacher’s intellectual growth will happen. Existing career
ladders and requirements for continuing certification do not emphasize content
knowledge, on the whole, and they are by no means found in every state. States need to
build such structures. But they also need to certify a solid academic foundation in the

Second is the assumption that minimum content knowledge for K-12 teachers means K-
12 content, and maybe just a little bit more. Most of the content on licensing
examinations is most typically found in high school curricula. On the few occasions that
tests addressed content beyond high school, it was at the level of the first or second year of
college, never at the level of a bachelor’s degree. Such low levels of content are

The third assumption is about licensure and not specifically about the exams. Many states
assume that passing college courses assures a “college level” mastery of content. But there
is ample research showing that this is not the case. More importantly, there is no
indication that the content learned in college courses is at all relevant to what prospective
teachers will need to teach.

In the end, this was the most disturbing aspect to us. What we have named knowledge for
teaching—the deep understanding of key concepts connected to K-12 curriculum—is
absent from the licensing examinations.

The movement to draft K-12 content standards began with a question: What should
students know and be able to do to be competent, literate high school graduates? After
long public discussions involving educators, subject specialists, industry and civic leaders,
the answer was content that was significantly higher than schools were currently teaching.
Moreover, it was determined that this higher-level content must be mastered by each and
every student—including those students that schools had traditionally left behind.

This discussion should not be over. It must extend to the next logical question: What
should teachers know and be able to do to teach their students to these new standards?
When we hold such discussions, as some college faculty are beginning to do now, we are
bound to find that the content requirements for teachers also need to be significantly
higher. And licensing examinations must reflect this content.

Raising the level of licensing examinations is not without risks. The threat of litigation
will continue to loom for states and tougher tests add to the panic of administrators
scrambling now to put a teacher in every classroom. Even the simple act of raising passing
scores can have an immediate impact on teacher supply.

Yet the short-term risks of shortages and ill-prepared candidates are inconveniences
compared to the long-term devastation of placing barely qualified teachers in charge of
our students’ intellectual development.

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Teachers truly hold society’s future in their hands. There are many gifted teachers
currently practicing who both know their subjects well and can convey that knowledge to
their students. But there is no present mechanism to ensure that all teachers have these
qualifications, or will attain them in time.

Everybody–students, parents, teachers themselves, and members of the community–holds

a high stake in making sure teachers have the knowledge they need to teach all students to
high standards. With public support and political will, policymakers and educators can
loosen the stranglehold that litigation and psychometrics have on developing licensing
examinations. They can make them into instruments that signify high professional
standards and tests that teachers will be proud to pass.

· · ·

ACTING ON THIS INFORMATION: Some recommendations from the

Education Trust

Short term actions for state, local and education leaders

1. All states should assess the academic knowledge of intending teachers, using the
most rigorous available examinations.

FOR ELEMENTARY TEACHERS, assessments should measure whether the

candidate has at least the general knowledge acquired in a four-year liberal arts
degree program. None of the currently available examinations (with the possible
exception of Massachusetts’) does this very well, leaving states with two short-term
options, neither good. The first is simply to raise the passing score on whichever
general knowledge exam is currently in use. The second, possible only in states
that have rigorous, internationally-benchmarked high school exit exams (like New
York Regents Exams), is to administer that high school exam to intending
elementary school teachers and demand a “distinguished” or “advanced”
performance level.

FOR SECONDARY TEACHERS, states should require both the essay-rich

assessments (for example, the Praxis II English Language, Literature and
Composition: Essay or Mathematics: Proofs, Models and Problems, or NES’
Massachusetts Science Essay Exam) and multiple-choice content examinations.
This way, both breadth and depth of subject knowledge will be tested.

2. Minimum passing scores should be raised.

3. School districts should request from all applicants for teaching jobs their scores on
relevant licensure examinations, as well as copies of college transcripts or other
evidence of content expertise. While all teacher hiring decisions should factor in
this information, high-poverty schools, where students are especially dependent

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upon their teachers for content learning, should give test scores and transcripts
considerable weight in the hiring process.

4. University leaders should note that current state policies do not preclude them
from setting higher academic standards for graduation from their institutions than
states require for licensure. Indeed, they would be well advised to consider doing
what the Texas A & M System recently did: set higher standards for itself than did
the State Licensure Board.

Longer term actions for state, local and education leaders

1. All states should immediately initiate a process aimed at developing clear academic
standards for what teachers need to know in the various content areas in order to
teach students to the state K- 12 standards. The standard-setters should start with
the K-12 standards, but ask specifically what more a teacher needs to know both to
have the deep understanding necessary to teach a concept well, and also the
knowledge necessary to link that concept to others. At the secondary level,
especially, these standards should represent the kind of knowledge that should be
acquired during four years of intensive study at the collegiate level. This process
should be led by faculty from the relevant disciplines, but should also include
teachers and education faculty.

2. These new standards for teachers should serve as a framework for rethinking how
teachers are prepared, including what courses they are required to take. Broad
general education requirements, which allow students to fulfill science
requirements with courses like Astronomy or Human Sexuality, may not be
sufficient to provide elementary teachers with the content background that
matches what they will be teaching. The same is true of secondary teachers and the
academic major: as one group of university-based mathematicians just found, while
students could learn all of the content necessary to teach to that state’s standards in
the courses available to a math major, completion of the major would by no means
guarantee the right combination of content.

3. These standards should also guide the development and/or selection of rigorous
new academic assessments for initial licensure. These should be developed, tested,
and put into place as soon as possible.

4. Passing state licensure exams should not be left to chance. Rather, to ensure that
institutions of higher education take seriously their responsibility to prepare
intending teachers for these exams, states should adopt and put into place
accountability systems that hold colleges strictly accountable for the success of their
graduates. These accountability systems should affect the arts and science
departments that do most of the content preparation of future teachers, as well as
schools of education.

5. Colleges and universities should be held clearly accountable for preparing all of the
students in their teacher preparation programs—including minority students—to

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

pass state licensure exams. As in the state of Texas, institutions that do not succeed
with minority students should get help improving their success. If they fail to
improve, state registration or accreditation should be revoked.

Actions for national disciplinary leaders

1. Like the leaders in the field of mathematics, other disciplinary associations should
take the lead in designing and carrying out a process for developing model
academic standards for teachers at each level of the education system. The process
should include the relevant subject-matter associations from both higher education
and K-12. The model standards will serve as a reference point for state and local
academic leaders as they answer the question “What do our teachers need to know
to teach children to our standards?”

2. The disciplinary associations at both levels should also collaborate on the

development of rigorous assessments of academic content for prospective teachers.
As in the examinations developed by the American Chemical Society, these might
initially be used voluntarily both by colleges (for program improvement purposes)
and by individuals (to demonstrate unusual mastery). Over time, however, they
might be used for initial licensure.

“Over the next decade, we will need to bring two million new teachers into our nation’s public
schools—700,000 in urban areas alone. Filling these openings with the best talent will be a tall
order, especially in inner-city schools, where half of all new teachers quit within three years.” To
address this problem Louis Gerstner, retired chairman of IBM , convened the Teaching Commission
in 2003, which describes itself as “a diverse, bipartisan group comprising 18 leaders in government,
business, philanthropy, and education…working to improve student performance and close America's
dangerous achievement gap by transforming the way in which America's public school teachers are
prepared, recruited, retained, and rewarded.” The Commission issued a report in 2004 containing
a series of recommendations for dealing with the problem of teacher recruitment and retention. The
section on teacher preparation follows:

Document #3: The Teaching Commission, Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action (New York:
The Teaching Commission, 2004) Chapter 3. Excerpts.

Skills and Preparation

“It takes a whole university to prepare a teacher.” (Robert Maxon, President, California
State University at Long Beach)
14, p. 12.
Gerstner, who came to IBM from American Express and RJRNabisco is described in his bio on the IBM Web site as:
“[a] lifetime advocate of the importance of quality education… From 1996 to 2002 he co-chaired Achieve, an
organization created by U.S. Governors and business leaders to drive high academic standards for public schools in the
United States. He is co-author of the book Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America's Public
Schools (Dutton 1994).”
Available at

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Closing the achievement gap requires that all teachers have the skills and knowledge
needed to help all students meet high standards.

To accomplish this goal, we must break the cycle in which low-performing students in
college become the teachers of low-performing students in public schools. The chronically
low test scores of education majors in higher education are not just of academic interest.
Research based on classroom practice makes it quite clear that teachers’ verbal and
cognitive abilities have a greater impact on student learning than any other measured

The shortcomings in the basic skills of future teachers are compounded by teacher
education programs that function in isolation from academic departments. Teacher
education students sometimes major in subjects such as “mathematics education” and
“social studies education” rather than in true academic fields. Many prospective teachers
gain exposure to trends in how to teach without mastering the content knowledge
required to be effective in the classroom, and often without receiving significant practical
opportunities to explore effective ways to help students from diverse and challenging
backgrounds achieve. Too many of the nation’s teacher education programs—which often
provide significant revenue for their institutions—have continued to churn out teachers
lacking in relevant skills and unready to step into the realities of today’s classrooms.
Although Title II of the Higher Education Act, passed in 1998, required schools of
education to submit detailed accountability reports and 85 percent of students to pass state
certification exams, many programs remain riddled with low expectations and continue to
lack rigor and real-world relevance.20

Another barrier to recruiting and training a higher-quality teaching force is a state

certification system that discourages quality teachers from entering the field, discounts the
importance of content knowledge, and is characterized by low standards and unclear
relevance to classroom realities. Many would-be teachers are discouraged from entering
the field by the sheer number of bureaucratic requirements they must meet.21 The
problem extends to big city school districts. A study recently completed by the New
Teacher Project concludes that urban school districts often “alienate many talented
applicants because of slow-moving bureaucracies and budgeting delays.”

R. G. Ehrenberg and Dominic J. Brewer, “Did Teachers’ Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1960s?
Coleman Revisited,” Economics of Education Review, 14, 1 (1995), 1-21; R. F Ferguson and H.F. Ladd “How
and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools,” in Holding Schools Accountable: Performance-Based
Reform in Education, H.F. Ladd, ed. (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1996), 265-298.
Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Marci Kanstoroom, “Improving, Empowering, Dismantling,” The Public Interest,
14 (Summer, 2000); see also Deborah Loewenberg Ball, “Bridging Practices: Intertwining Content and
Pedagogy in Teaching and Learning to Teach,” Journal of Teacher Education 51, 3 (2000), 241-247.
E.D. Hirsh, The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them (New York: Doubleday, 1996); see also
Dale Ballou and Michael Podgursky, “Reforming Teacher Preparation and Licensing: What is the
Evidence?” TC Record (2000).
Frederick Hess, “Tear Down This Wall: The Case for Radical Overhaul of Teacher Certification,”
Progressive Policy Institute (Washington, D.C., 2001), 15.
Jessica Levin and Meredith Quinn, Missed Opportunities: How We Keep High-Quality Teachers Out of
Urban Classrooms (New York: The New Teacher Project, 2003).

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What’s more, several studies have found that the relationship between how well students
do in school and whether or not they are taught by certified teachers is unclear.
A teacher’s subject-matter knowledge, by contrast, is strongly correlated with student
learning, but it often isn’t measured adequately—or at all—during the certification
process. Congress and the White House have taken a step in the right direction through
the No Child Left Behind Act’s mandate for a qualified teacher in every classroom by the
2005-2006 school year. The law requires that prospective teachers have an undergraduate
degree, be certified by a state-sanctioned program, and demonstrate competency in the
core academic subjects that they teach. But it also leaves states with “significant flexibility
to design ways to do this,”24 leaving the door open for continued low standards and lack of

As a result of these problems, it is no surprise that a survey conducted by Public Agenda,

the nonpartisan public-opinion research firm, found that only 13 percent of principals and
7 percent of superintendents believe that certification in their states guarantees that the
typical teacher “has what it takes” to make it in the classroom.

The Teaching Commission believes that improving the skills and preparation of teachers
will require two significant changes: college and university presidents must align their
teacher education programs with the rigor, quality, and accountability of our 21st-century
world, and states must overhaul their certification and licensing processes.


College and university presidents must revamp their teacher education programs and make teacher
quality a top priority.

We call on the presidents of all American colleges and universities to make a personal and
institutional commitment, including resources, to tackle the problem of unskilled teachers.
Ensuring that the best and brightest college graduates are encouraged to teach in public
schools, and that they receive high-quality academic training, should be among the top
priorities of college and university presidents. That means raising standards for entry into
teacher preparation programs, beefing up the academic content of those programs while
also ensuring a connection to real practice, and promoting teaching as an exemplary career
path for new graduates who wish to become engaged citizens. It also means measuring
results in order to ensure that teacher education programs are doing their job. The federal
government, for its part, should be prepared to withhold funds from colleges and
universities that fail to show the effectiveness of their teacher-recruitment and preparation

Andrew Wayne and Peter Youngs, “Teacher Characteristics and Student Achievement Gains: A
Review,” Review of Educational Research, 73, 1 (Spring, 2003), 89-122.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Undersecretary, No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers
(Washington, D.C., 2003), 12.
Public Agenda, An Assessment of Survey Data on Attitudes about Teaching, Including the Views of
Parents, Administrators, Teachers, and the General Public, compiled for The Teaching Commission, 31.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

• Raising standards. Presidents of colleges and universities with schools of

education must ensure that admission and performance standards in teacher
education programs are commensurate with those of other university departments.
Among other things, that means (1) recruiting stronger students from all major
fields of study; (2) requiring education majors to acquire solid academic content
skills by receiving at least a minor in an academic subject other than education; (3)
drawing clear connections between what future teachers are taught about
pedagogy and what research shows to be effective; and (4) offering opportunities
to learn and observe in a real world setting. To guard against faddism, new
approaches to teacher education should include an evaluation component that uses
high research standards, such as those employed by the U.S. Department of
Education’s What Works Clearinghouse, a central source of research-based,
educational best practices.

• Encouraging teaching. Presidents of colleges and universities without schools of

education should make an explicit attempt to encourage graduates to go into
teaching. There is ample evidence that they will find a receptive audience: almost
one in five young college graduates who end up in fields other than teaching say
they would have seriously considered teaching as a career.60 College presidents, as
part of their efforts, should ask academic departments to offer structured
opportunities for individuals in regular degree-granting programs to get credit for
taking a course relevant to teaching.

• Measuring results. In the same way that universities and colleges publicize and
take pride in the number of their graduates who go on to careers in engineering,
accounting, and law, they should publicly disclose the number of individuals who
go into teaching, the percentage of graduates who pass teacher certification exams,
and their grade point averages. Colleges should also disclose the number of those
graduates who actually go into the classroom. In addition to encouraging many
more of their undergraduate majors to go into teaching, academic departments
should eventually be asked to track how many actually do so, how long they
remain in teaching, and, most importantly, how successful they are in raising
student achievement.

• Federal funding. The federal government should tie continued federal funding of
teacher education programs to measures of success for graduates of these programs.
Institutions that do not meet acceptable standards of performance should no longer
receive federal funding for their programs.

Promising Model: University of Texas--UTeach

UTeach, one of the nation’s most innovative teacher preparation programs, exemplifies
what major research universities can do to fulfill their responsibilities to address the teacher
quality crisis. With the full support of the Chancellor of the University of Texas, UTeach
was started by the College of Natural Sciences at UTAustin in 1997 to address a severe
statewide shortage of math and science teachers. Through UTeach’s academic program,

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

participants get rigorous preparation and training in math and science in regular academic
departments while also receiving the opportunity to take education courses and obtain
hands-on experience in the school of education.

The program is open both to undergraduates, who can complete the program over the
course of four years, and to graduates with degrees in math, sciences, or computer science,
who are eligible to complete the program in three semesters. UTeach participants benefit
from close contact with faculty both during the program and after graduation. A network
of advisors gives graduates an opportunity to receive ongoing counsel and advice from a
mentor during their first three years of teaching.

UTeach is already helping meet Texas’s teaching needs. In the 2002-2003 school year,
879 math teachers in the state had “emergency” certificates, 22 percent of high school
math teachers were not certified, and 35 percent of math teachers in grades seven to 12
did not have a major in mathematics. Thanks to UTeach, however, over 280 math and
science teachers have been trained in the past four years. By 2006, the number is expected
to increase to 400 teachers per year.

Promising Model: Carnegie Corporation—Teachers for a New Era

In 2001, The Carnegie Corporation of New York initiated an ambitious reform initiative,
Teachers for a New Era, to help establish exemplary teacher education programs at elected
colleges and universities.

The program is organized according to three broad principles:

1. Reliance on research-based evidence for improving student achievement via

instruction. A teacher education program should promote a culture of research,
inquiry, and data analysis, with a heavy emphasis on pupil learning gains. Student
learning will become one measure of the effectiveness of a teacher education
program under Teachers for a New Era.

2. Active engagement of Arts and Sciences faculty in teacher preparation. High

quality education of prospective teachers, especially in specific subject areas,
requires active involvement of faculty from the Arts and Sciences.

3. Closer collaboration between colleges of education and actual practicing schools.

Education should be understood as an academically taught clinical practice
profession. Teachers for a New Era will focus on relevant pedagogical skills (driven
by research on impact on student learning), use schools as practical clinics, and
provide support over two years for newly inducted graduates.

As designated leaders in this area, participating institutions will be required to disseminate

lessons learned, successful innovations, and difficulties encountered.

Available from

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Participating colleges and universities, selected by invitation, will receive $5 million for a
period of five years, to be matched by funds provided by the institution. In all,
Carnegie has committed more than $45 million for the initiative. The Ford and
Annenberg Foundations have committed an additional $17 million to this program.

To date, 11 institutions have been chosen to participate in this initiative: Bank Street
College of Education in New York City, California State University in Northridge,
Michigan State University, and the University of Virginia (all selected in 2002); and
Boston College, Florida A&M University, the University of Connecticut, Stanford
University, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Washington, and the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (all selected in 2003).

Promising Model: Ready to Teach Act

The Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization. In the first of what is likely to be a
series of bills, the Ready to Teach Act, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in
July 2003, is focused primarily on the goal of placing a highly qualified teacher in every
classroom by the 2005-2006 school year, as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.
The new legislation seeks to ensure that teacher training programs are producing well-
prepared graduates who are able to meet the needs of America’s students. The Ready to
Teach Act proposes to authorize competitively awarded grants to: (1) increase student
academic achievement; (2) improve the quality of the current and future teaching force by
improving the preparation of prospective teachers and enhancing professional
development activities; (3) hold institutions of higher education accountable for preparing
highly qualified teachers; and (4) recruit highly qualified minorities and individuals from
other occupations into the teaching force.


States must improve—or overhaul—their licensing and certification requirements.

We call on governors and state education departments to ensure that every individual who
wants to become a teacher passes a rigorous test for both content and essential skills. At a
minimum, this will require raising the passing score on existing certification exams. It
should also entail replacing low-level basic competency tests with challenging exams that
measure verbal ability and content knowledge at an appropriately high level. In addition,
states need to streamline the cumbersome bureaucracy that often surrounds teacher
licensure in order to make the profession more attractive to a wide range of qualified

• Raising the bar. Forty states now require teachers to pass minimum competency
exams, but as discussed above, these exams lack rigor and passing scores are
notoriously low.28 Almost half the states do not require teaching applicants to take

Available from
Frederick Hess, “Tear Down This Wall: The Case for Radical Overhaul of Teacher
Certification,” Progressive Policy Institute (Washington, D.C., 2001), 7

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

tests in the subjects they plan to teach—and even in some states that do have such
requirements, it is possible to answer only about half the questions in a given
subject correctly and still receive a teaching license. Despite these rudimentary
requirements, there are nevertheless many districts, especially in high-need urban
areas, where students are routinely taught by teachers who have not passed
certification exams. Worse still, too many middle- and high-school students are
taught by teachers who have no background in the subject they are teaching.
Fifty-six percent of high-school students taking physical science are taught by out-
of-field teachers, and Education Week’s seventh annual report “Quality Counts
2003” notes that 38 percent of urban secondary-school students are taught by
teachers who lack either a college major or certification in the subject that they
teach.30 We therefore recommend that all states test would-be teachers in specific
content areas. Most importantly, states should agree on a common national
standard for subject-area tests and set cutoff scores at a level that requires teaching
candidates to demonstrate mastery reflecting at least two years of undergraduate
study. Those who don’t measure up shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom.

• Streamlining bureaucracy. In addition to raising licensing standards, states

should ensure that the focus of teacher certification is on substance, not process.
Each state currently has its own licensing and certification system, which typically
requires would-be teachers not only to pass exams but also to take a certain
number of education classes and to spend a period of time as a student teacher.
More often than not, the certification process takes at least one year to complete
and is regarded by many as cumbersome and bureaucratic, serving as a barrier to
entry for the well-qualified and highly motivated individuals who are badly needed
in our classrooms.31 Critics have often complained that promising candidates are
turned off by the cumbersome licensing process, which often seems long on
bureaucracy and short on common sense. A sample reform: in order to hire
otherwise-qualified individuals who have not been student teachers, school districts
and schools should be permitted to bypass this requirement by providing at least
one year of intensive on-the-job mentoring, whereby new teachers spend their
first month observing classes taught by mentor or master teachers. A streamlined
approach to certifying teachers would also include the sanctioning of high-quality
alternative certification programs that often serve as models for how states can
overhaul their own processes. Graduates of such programs should face the same
accountability requirements as their traditionally-prepared peers. Since 1985, some
200,000 people have become teachers through these programs, which typically
require a bachelor’s degree, passage of a competency test, and an intensive (but
compressed) regimen of specialized preparation, often undertaken while on the

Ruth Mitchell and Patte Barth, “How Teacher Licensing Tests Fall Short,” Thinking K-16, 3, 1 (Spring,
Education Week, “Quality Counts 2003: If I Can’t Learn From You,” Education Week Vol.22, Number
17 (2003)
Frederick Hess, “Tear Down This Wall: The Case for Radical Overhaul of Teacher Certification,”
Progressive Policy Institute (Washington, D.C., 2001)
Emily Feistritzer, Alternative Certification: A State-by-State Analysis 2002 (Washington, DC: National
Center for Education Information, 2002)

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job. They attract talented and enthusiastic individuals into teaching who might
otherwise be lost to the calling. Research shows that teachers with alternative
certification are more likely than traditionally certified teachers to have bachelor’s
degrees in math and science, two fields with chronic shortages of qualified
teachers. They are also more likely to be members of minority groups.

Promising Model: Testing Innovations

The Educational Testing Service, the country’s leading test vendor, and the National
Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) have recently announced a
collaborative effort to establish a minimum passing score on the Praxis II test, which
measures the subject-area knowledge of prospective teachers. This welcome partnership
would set a common national standard for what new teachers should be expected to
know—but states will still need to do their part by adopting the new, higher standard.

Another effort to reform testing and certification for potential teachers is also underway.
The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) was recently
created to develop high-quality teacher credentials that are portable and can be earned in a
time-efficient, cost-effective manner. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and
sponsored jointly by the Education Leaders Council and the National Council on Teacher
Quality, ABCTE certification will be available for individuals first entering the teaching
profession who can pass tests in both pedagogy and subject-area knowledge.

Promising Model: Alternative Pathways to Teaching

The nation’s first alternative certification program, New Jersey’s “Provisional Teacher
Program,” has “markedly expanded the quality, diversity, and size of the state’s teacher
candidate pool,” according to one analysis. Started in 1984, the program had been used by
over 75 percent of the state’s school districts by 1998. On average, applicants had higher
scores on teacher licensing tests than traditionally prepared teachers. Attrition rates for
alternatively certified teachers were also lower than those of their traditionally trained

The popularity of programs such as Teach for America (TFA), which places liberal arts
graduates without formal education course work in public school classrooms in inner cities
and poor rural communities, indicates that the prospect of teaching without first being
obliged to spend years in pedagogical study appeals to some of our brightest college
graduates. With nearly 16,000 applicants for 1,800 available positions in 2003, Teach for
America had a lower acceptance rate than did Harvard Law School for the same year.36
Although research regarding the success of alternative certification programs remains

Emily Feistritzer, Teacher Quality and Alternative Certification Programs, Testimony before the House
Committee on Education and the Workforce, May 13, 1999
Leo Klagholtz, Growing Better Teachers in the Garden State: New Jersey’s Alternate Route to
Teacher Certification (Washington, D.C., The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 2000)
Teach For America Press Release, (New York, June 3, 2003); also available from
Available from

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limited, initial findings about TFA are positive. A study conducted by Macke Raymond
and Stephen Fletcher of TFA participants in Houston, Texas, found that TFA teachers
perform at least as well as, and in many cases better than, other teachers hired by the
Houston Independent School District. Moreover, the highest-performing teachers were
consistently TFA teachers, and the lowest-performing teachers were consistently non-TFA

Another leading group, the New York City Teaching Fellows Program, was established in
2000 to bring outstanding individuals into the city’s public schools and to provide them
with intensive teacher training and opportunities to simultaneously pursue a Master’s
degree in education. The program is open to individuals with or without education
backgrounds and has trained and placed over 5,000 highly talented teachers in New York
City’s public schools to date.38

Two years after it issued its report, the Teaching Commission followed up with a progress report
before disbanding. Its findings were not entirely encouraging.

Document #4: Bess Keller, “Group Signs Off With Progress Report on Teacher
Quality,” Education Week, March 29, 2006.

A high-profile group formed to boost the quality of the nation’s teaching corps says
progress toward that goal has been just middling over the past three years.
The Teaching Commission, a privately organized group led by former IBM head Louis
V. Gerstner Jr., graded teaching-profession reform in a final report released last week.39
The four marks for results ranged from a B-minus for strengthening school leadership and
better supporting teachers to a D-minus for “reinventing” teacher preparation.
Calling teacher preparation “the most disappointing in results,” Mr. Gerstner said, “We
have got to get the university presidents and trustees to understand that most education
schools are vast wastelands of academic inferiority.” At a press conference here, he went
on to blast the officials for shortchanging teacher-education programs, allowing them to
serve as “cash cows” for their universities.
The report closes out the work of the New York City-based commission, which Mr.
Gerstner founded in 2003 soon after his retirement from the computer-technology
‘Signaling Effects’
The report also grades progress on changing teacher compensation and teacher licensing,
giving both a C.

Margaret Raymond, Stephen H. Fletcher, and Javier Luque, Teach for America: An Evaluation of
Teacher Differences and Student Outcomes in Houston, Texas (CREDO, 2001)
Available from
The Teaching Commission, Teaching at Risk: Progress and Potholes, (New York: Teaching Commission,
2006) Available at

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Mr. Gerstner cited the work of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota as “good
news” on the school improvement front, not only because state lawmakers in 2005
adopted a framework for alternative ways of paying teachers, but also because the
governor’s legislative package reflected the Teaching Commission’s recommendations as
a whole. The former IBM chief said it was not enough to change teacher pay, for
instance, without making it easier for qualified people to get into the classroom or for
principals to hire and fire teachers.
But many governors, he added, “have been reluctant to lean on entrenched interests and
bureaucracies” to make way for change. He said that while the commission “feels pretty
good” about the progress so far, little of the sustainable change that would make a big
difference in the nation’s schools has occurred, including in the hardest-pressed urban
Stature and Visibility
Observers generally agreed that the commission’s work was valuable in giving stature and
visibility to new directions in teacher policy.
“The Teaching Commission did a good job of harvesting, from a group of key
stakeholders, a bipartisan statement on the teaching profession and a set of action steps to
improve it,” wrote teacher-researcher and advocate Barnett Berry in an e-mail.
Nonetheless, Mr. Berry, the president of the Center for Teaching Quality in Chapel Hill,
N.C., faulted the group’s initial 2004 report for failing to address several important issues,
such as the “abysmal” working conditions many teachers face and ways to finance their
salary increases.
Andrew J. Rotherham, a co-director of Education Sector, a nonprofit Washington think
tank, praised as an achievement the commission’s release of a set of forceful
recommendations, the centerpiece of the 2004 report.
“That a diversity of viewpoints could rally around these directions—that had important
signaling effects,” he said.
But, Mr. Rotherham added, the group was far less successful with its next step—
persuading officials to turn those recommendations into policies. “They weren’t able to
move that very far,” he said.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Gerstner’s Commission speaks well of “alternative pathways” to a teaching career. For all of
their differences, however, Darling-Hammond and Haycock would no doubt agree that teacher
preparation of some sort is better than no teacher preparation. Darling-Hammond and her
colleagues at Stanford recently conducted a study in Houston that compared student achievement
in classes taught by certified teachers and those taught by non-certified (principally Teach for
America) teachers. A summary of that research follows:

Document #5: Linda Darling-Hammond, Deborah J. Holtzman, Su Jin Gatlin & Julian
Vasquez Heilig, “Does Teacher Preparation Matter? Evidence about Teacher
Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher Effectiveness,” (presented April 15, 2005 at
the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in Montreal, Canada).
Available at


Recent debates about the utility of teacher education have raised questions about whether
certified teachers are, in general, more effective than those who have not met the testing
and training requirements for certification, and whether some candidates with strong
liberal arts backgrounds might be at least as effective as teacher education graduates. This
study examines these questions with a large student-level data set from Houston, Texas
that links student characteristics and achievement with data about their teachers’
certification status, experience, and degree levels from 1995-2002. The data set also allows
an examination of whether Teach for America (TFA) candidates – recruits from selective
universities who receive a few weeks of training before they begin teaching – are as
effective as similarly experienced certified teachers. In a series of regression analyses
looking at 4th and 5th grade student achievement gains on six different reading and
mathematics tests over a six-year period, we find that certified teachers consistently
produce significantly stronger student achievement gains than do uncertified teachers.
Alternatively certified teachers are also generally less effective than certified teachers. These
findings hold for TFA recruits as well as others. Controlling for teacher experience,
degrees, and student characteristics, uncertified TFA recruits are less effective than certified
teachers, and perform about as well as other uncertified teachers. TFA recruits who
become certified after 2 or 3 years do about as well as other certified teachers in
supporting student achievement gains; however, nearly all of them leave within three
years. Teachers’ effectiveness appears strongly related to the preparation they have received
for teaching. We discuss policy implications for districts’ efforts to develop a more
effective teaching force.

Focusing their attention on high school teachers in North Carolina, Xu, Hannaway and Taylor came
up with very different conclusions about the effectiveness of TFA volunteers in the classroom.

Document #6: Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway and Colin Taylor, Making a difference? The effects
of Teach for America in High School, (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in
Education, The Urban Institute, April 2007).

Teach for America (TFA) recruits and selects graduates from some of the most selective
colleges and universities across the country to teach in the nation’s most challenging K– 12

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schools throughout the nation. TFA has grown significantly since its inception in 1990,
when it received 2,500 applicants and selected and placed 500 teachers. In 2005, it
received over 17,000 applicants and selected and placed a little over 2,000 new teachers,
and the program anticipates expanding to over 4,000 placements in 2010. In total, the
program has affected the lives of nearly 3 million students.

The growth of the program alone suggests that TFA is helping to address the crucial need
to staff the nation’s schools, a particularly acute need in high poverty schools, but TFA is
not without its critics. The criticisms tend to fall into two categories. The first is that most
TFA teachers have not received traditional teacher training and therefore are not as
prepared for the demands of the classroom as traditionally trained teachers. TFA corps
members participate in an intensive five-week summer national institute and a two week
local orientation/induction program prior to their first teaching assignment. The second
criticism is that TFA requires only a two year teaching commitment, and the majority of
corps members leave at the end of that commitment. The short tenure of TFA teachers is
troubling because research shows that new teachers are generally less effective than more
experienced teachers (Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain, 2005; Rockoff, 2004).

The research reported here investigates the relative effectiveness (in terms of student tested
achievement) of TFA teachers, and examines the validity of the criticisms of TFA.
Specifically, we look at TFA teachers in secondary schools, and especially in math and
science, where considerable program growth is planned over the next few years. To the
best of our knowledge, this is the first study of TFA at the secondary school level.

Using individual level student data linked to teacher data in North Carolina, we estimate
the effects of having a TFA teacher compared to a traditional teacher on student
performance. The North Carolina data we employ is uniquely suited for this type of
analysis because it includes end of course testing for students across multiple subjects. This
allows us to employ statistical methods that attempt to account for the nonrandom nature
of student assignments to classes/teachers, which have been shown to lead to biased
estimates of the impact of teacher credentials (Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor, 2007a;
Goldhaber, 2007).

The findings show that TFA teachers are more effective, as measured by student exam
performance, than traditional teachers. Moreover, they suggest that the TFA effect, at least
in the grades and subjects investigated, exceeds the impact of additional years of
experience, implying that TFA teachers are more effective than experienced secondary
school teachers. The positive TFA results are robust across subject areas, but are
particularly strong for math and science classes.

Previous Research

Research examining the impact of TFA teachers on student performance is surprisingly

sparse given its rapid expansion and the given the attention that the program has received

In recent years, TFA corps members have also engaged in on-going professional development activities
provided by TFA and whatever other supports school districts provide new teachers

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from the education policy community, college students, and school districts serving low
income communities.

We found no research on TFA at the secondary school level. Most work has focused on
elementary school teachers and some on middle school teachers. The most prominent
study is the random assignment study conducted by Mathematica (Decker, Mayer and
Glazerman, 2004). The Mathematica study compares student achievement outcomes
among students taught by TFA teachers and other teachers in the same schools and at the
same grade levels. The control group tended to be diverse; some teachers were certified
and some were not. Because the control group teachers are the set of teachers who would
have likely taught the students in the absence of TFA, they are arguably the appropriate
comparison group for policy purposes. Students were randomly assigned to teachers prior
to the beginning of the school year to ensure there were no systematic differences
between the student groups at the outset of the study. Both TFA and traditional teachers
in the study were in self-contained classrooms in grade 1 through grade 5. Student
outcomes were assessed on the basis of math and reading tests that were administered at
the beginning and end of the academic year.

The Mathematica study found that TFA teachers outperformed the control teachers,
including experienced teachers, in student math achievement. The impact of TFA
teachers and control teachers was no different in reading achievement. When TFA
teachers were compared with novice control teachers, the impact on math achievement
was larger than when compared to the full teacher control group, and reading remained

Two recent studies estimated TFA effects on student performance using large scale data
from New York City. Both focused on reading and math performance of students in
grades 4 though 8; both differentiated non-TFA teachers into multiple categories of
teachers (e.g., in terms of certification); and both explicitly took experience into account.

Kane, Rockoff, and Staiger (2006) used six years of data and found a small positive effect
for TFA on student math achievement (.02 standard deviations) relative to certified
teachers, controlling for years of teaching experience. The effect was somewhat smaller for
elementary school teachers (.015) and larger for middle school teachers (.027). They also
found that the returns to experience were greater for TFA teachers than traditionally
certified teachers, though not statistically significant. The experience differentials overall
were small such that even a small difference in effectiveness may offset turnover. Similar to
the Mathematica study, there were no differences in reading. In general, they found that
the certification status of a teacher has at most a small impact on student performance; and
variation in teacher effectiveness within certification categories was large.

Two smaller studies of TFA were also conducted with data from Houston (Raymond, Fletcher and
Luque, 2001); (Darling-Hammond, Holtzman, Gatlin and Heilig, 2005), but they are not as rigorous as the
New York City studies. Both found positive effects for TFA in math on the state test, though the second
study found negative effects on other subjects and tests. The first study compared TFA teachers to other
teachers in the district; the second study compared TFA teachers holding standard certification.

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Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, and Wyckoff (2006) compared the performance of
teachers entering teaching in New York City from different pathways, including TFA.
They had one year less of data so they work with a smaller sample of TFA teachers than
Kane, Rockoff and Staiger (2006). They also distinguish two types of certification status:
“college recommended” and individual evaluation. The former refers to teachers who
fulfilled certification requirements at a university-based program registered with the state.
The latter refers to teachers who fulfilled their requirements at different institutions,
including through distance learning.

The Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff study compares pathway effects
relative to college recommended teachers. They found differences by grade level and
subject. In ELA (English/Language Arts), TFA teachers perform somewhat worse than
‘college recommended’ teachers in their first year teaching, though they tend to catch up
to some degree in later years. In middle school math, however, TFA teachers had an
advantage right off in their first year teaching. The finding was statistically significant
across a number of specifications. Similar to the other New York City study, this study
also found that the variation in teacher effectiveness within pathways was greater than the
average difference between pathways.

This study focuses on TFA effects in high school, where teacher academic qualifications
are particularly important (Goldhaber and Brewer, 2000). Four sections follow. We first
describe the data and the variables used in the analysis. The next section discusses the
analytic strategy we employ followed by a presentation of results. The final section
discusses the implications for policy and practice….


The research reported here is related to larger education policy and practice concerns
about teacher quality, especially teacher quality for disadvantaged students. Teach for
America taps into a non-traditional pool for teachers. The teachers TFA recruits and
selects differ from traditional teachers, on average, in a number of ways. They tend to
have stronger academic credentials; they have not been prepared in traditional teacher
training programs; they are more likely to teach for only a few years; and they are assigned
to the most challenging schools in the country. Given these differences, the program has
been controversial. Research providing guidance on the merits of the program to policy
While not directly an examination of TFA, a recent study by Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, Rockoff, and
Wyckoff (2007) found a substantial narrowing of the gap in teacher qualifications between schools serving
disadvantaged and schools serving more affluent students in New York City between 2000 and 2005. They
credit the converging of qualifications to three policy changes: (1) abolishing temporary licenses for
uncertified teachers; (2) the creation of alternative certification routes; (3) and the creation of the Teacher
Fellows Program. The newly hired teachers—TFA and Teaching Fellows—represented 40 percent of all
new hires in 2005. On average they have higher test scores and stronger academic backgrounds than other
teachers and, by design, are placed disproportionately in high poverty schools where temporarily licensed
teachers tended to teach previously. The improved teacher qualifications for the schools serving the most
disadvantaged students led to improved student performance between 2000 and 2005. The improvement
more than half offset any deficit associated with being a first year teacher. As with other studies, the effects in
math were stronger than the effects in ELA. In short, the findings show that recruitment strategies that target
teachers with strong academic credentials, like Teach for America, can substantially change outcomes for

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

makers and to local education administrators has been scant at the elementary school level
and non-existent at the secondary school level. This study represents the first study at the
secondary school level.

Our findings show that secondary school TFA teachers are more effective than the
teachers who would otherwise be in the classroom in their stead. While these other
teachers are a diverse group in terms of background and training, for policy purposes they
are an appropriate comparison group. Other things being equal, the findings suggest that
disadvantaged students taught by TFA teachers are better off than they would be in the
absence of TFA.

But there are additional policy questions. Suppose we raised the bar on teacher
qualifications and require that all secondary school teachers be fully licensed in their field,
particularly teachers of math and science. Raising the bar may also means we would have
to raise salaries to attract sufficient numbers of qualified teachers. But under these
conditions, would students be better or worse off with a TFA teacher? To examine this
question we restricted the comparison to traditional teachers who were fully certified in
field. The TFA advantage still held.

Or suppose we required that all teachers teaching disadvantaged secondary school students
have, say, three years of prior experience. Would students be better or worse off with
TFA teachers on average? The findings show that TFA status more than offsets any
experience effects. Disadvantaged secondary students would be better off with TFA
teachers, especially in math and science, than with fully licensed in-field teachers with
three or more years of experience.

We should note that the findings here do not necessarily mean that there is no value to
teacher training. It is possible that the teachers that TFA recruits and selects would be even
more effective with more pedagogical training.

The findings have important implications for the recruitment and selection aspects of
human resource management in education, at least for secondary school teachers. They
stress the likely importance of strong academic backgrounds for secondary school teachers.
They also suggest that policy makers should focus more on issues of teacher selection, and
less on issues of teacher retention, if the concern is the performance of disadvantaged
secondary school students especially in math and science. In short, they suggest that
programs like TFA that focus on recruiting and selecting academically talented recent
college graduates and placing them in schools serving disadvantaged students can help
reduce the achievement gap, even if teachers stay in teaching only a few years.


Boyd, Donald J., Pam Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Nicholas M. Michelli, and Jim
Wyckoff. (2006) “Complex By Design. Investigating Pathways into Teaching in New York City Schools.”
Journal of Teacher Education 57(2): 155-166.

Boyd, D., H. Lankford, S. Loeb, J. Rockoff and J. Wyckoff (2007) “The Narrowing Gap in New York City
Teacher Qualifications and Its Implications for Student Achievement in High-Poverty Schools,” CALDER
Working Paper 10.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Clotfelter, Charles T., Helen Ladd, and Jacob Vigdor. (2007a) “Teacher Credentials and Student
Achievement in High School: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed-effects” CALDER Working
Paper 11.

Clotfelter, Charles T., Helen Ladd and Jacob Vigdor (2007b) “How and Why Do Teacher Credentials
Matter for Student Achievement?” CALDER Working Paper 2 and NBER Working Paper 12828.

Darling-Hammond, L., D. J. Holtzman, S. J. Gatlin and J. V. Heilig (2005). “Does Teacher Preparation
Matter? Evidence about Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher Effectiveness.” Education
Policy Analysis Archives, 13 (42).

Decker, P. T., Mayer, D. P., and Glazerman, S. (2004). The Effects of Teach For America on Students:
Findings from a National Evaluation. Princeton NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.

Dee, Thomas and Sarah Cohodes (2008). “Out-of-Field Teachers and Student Achievement: Evidence from
“Matched-Pairs” Comparisons.” Public Finance Review, 36(1): 7-32.

Goldhaber, Dan (2007). “Everyone’s Doing It, but What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us about Teacher
Effectiveness.” CALDER Working Paper 9.

Goldhaber, Dan and Dominic Brewer. (2000). Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher
Certification Status and Student Achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(2): 129-145
Goldhaber, Dan and Emily Anthony. (2007). “Can Teacher Quality Be Effectively Assessed? National Board
Certification as a Signal of Effective Teaching.” Review of Economics and Statistics, 89(1): 134–150

Kane, Thomas J., Jonah E. Rockoff, and Douglas O. Staiger. (2006) "What Does Certification Tell Us
About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." Working Paper No. 12155, National
Bureau of Economic Research April.

Raymond, Margaret, Stephen H. Fletcher and Javier Luque. (2001) “Teach For America: An Evaluation of
Teacher Differences and Student Outcomes in Houston, Texas,” (Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution,
Center for Research on Education Outcomes).

Rivkin, S. G., E. A. Hanushek, and J. F. Kain. (2005). Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement.
Econometrica, 73(2): 417-458

Rockoff, Jonah. (2004). The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel
Data. American Economic Review, 94(2): 247-252.

Herself a TFA volunteer, Megan Hopkins advances several ideas for enhancing the value of TFA
teachers by providing them with a “residency” year before they begin to teach on their own.

Document #7: Megan Hopkins43, “Training the Next Teachers for America: A proposal
for reconceptualizing Teach for America, Phi Delta Kappan June 2008.

Soon after I began my first year as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member, I realized
how underprepared I felt teaching first grade. Not only was I unsure how to manage and
organize my classroom, but I also lacked the necessary content and pedagogical knowledge

Megan Hopkins is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the
University of California, Los Angeles

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

to teach my students effectively. Perhaps most important, I did not have deep
understandings of or appreciation for the experiences of my students or their community.
The five-week training institute I attended during the prior summer had not been enough
to develop my educational “toolkit” or to prepare me to provide my students with the
type of education that might begin to equalize their chances in the system.

Although I grew as an educator over time and am still committed to working in

education, it was an uphill battle. And, like most other TFA corps members, I left
teaching within the first three years. Since my involvement with Teach for America, the
organization has made considerable efforts to refine its preparation model, yet the program
continues to draw criticism for teacher underpreparation and low retention rates.

In light of my experience and this continuing criticism, I wish to recommend alterations

in the preparation of corps members that would: 1) extend the TFA commitment to three
years; 2) convert the first year of teaching to a residency training year, offering classroom
training with expert veteran teachers while corps members also complete coursework
toward certification; and 3) offer incentives for corps members to teach longer than three
years. I recommend these changes with the goal of improving the effectiveness of corps
members and motivating TFA teachers to remain in their assignments for longer than two
or three years. These changes could help TFA fulfill its mission of creating leaders who
will make lasting changes in the field of education, while also enhancing program quality
during the time these potential leaders serve in our nation’s most underresourced schools.

These recommendations could be supported, in part, by the Teaching Residency Act,

introduced by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and the Preparing Excellent Teachers Act,
introduced in the House by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). Both bills, introduced last
summer, would enable prospective teachers to work under the wing of expert mentor
teachers for an academic year while they complete their coursework for certification. The
bills aim to expand the reach of highly successful models for urban teacher residencies —
programs that provide substantial preparation for carefully selected novice teachers who
commit to teaching for a minimum of three to four years in the districts that sponsor
them. The passage of this legislation would create an opportunity for Teach for America
to embrace promising new strategies for teacher preparation and induction.

Why change TFA?

Recent research on corps members’ effectiveness suggests the need for a change in TFA’s
approach. The TFA model assumes that extensive formal teacher training is not essential
for its recruits — most of them graduates of top colleges with strong leadership abilities
and a desire to improve educational opportunities for the nation’s children.

Yet the reality is that Teach for America teachers are initially less successful in supporting
student learning than are traditionally prepared teachers who are fully certified when they
enter the profession. One study found that TFA recruits had more positive effects on

Ildiko Laczko-Kerr and David C. Berliner, “The Effectiveness of ‘Teach for America’ and Other Under-
Certified Teachers on Student Academic Achievement: A Case of Harmful Public Policy,” Education Policy
Analysis Archives, 6 September 2002, v10n37; Linda Darling-Hammond et al.,

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students’ math achievement as corps members finished their certification and training;
however, they continued to have negative effects on elementary students’ reading
achievement throughout all the years of the study.

A small study comparing the performance of the students of 41 beginning and experienced
TFA teachers with that of the students of other teachers in their schools reported that the
TFA-taught students performed as well as the others in reading and better than the others
in math. But the teachers of the comparison group were even less likely to be trained or
certified than the TFA teachers.46 The slight increases in mathematics achievement that the
more experienced TFA teachers contributed were not substantial.

While the research is limited to comparing student performance on standardized tests, and
it is arguable whether these tests accurately measure student achievement, these studies
show that TFA corps members are not, in fact, as successful as the organization assumes
they will be. Particularly when they begin teaching, TFA teachers are less successful than
their peers who receive more formal training.

In addition to criticism involving the preparation of its teachers, Teach for America is
often criticized for its high turnover rates, as studies have found that 80% or more of corps
members have left their teaching positions by the end of the third year, just when they are
beginning to be more successful. This figure compares to about 30% to 40% of
traditionally certified teachers in the same districts who leave by the end of the third year.
Districts — and their schools and students — bear the cost of this high level of attrition,
and not surprisingly, some district officials have expressed concerns about this turnover
rate. For example, Chicago administrators have indicated their desire for TFA corps
members to stay longer, noting the longer tenures of other recruits and emphasizing their
own responsibility to be “conscientious consumers” when making hiring decisions.48
These observations suggest that TFA should consider incentives for corps members who
are willing to remain longer in the classroom.

What approaches might improve the model?

In comparative international studies of teacher preparation, the U.S. has been shown to
undervalue preservice training. In particular, it is much less likely in the U.S. than in other
developed nations that prospective teachers will learn to teach under the wing of a master
teacher while they are learning about curriculum, instruction, learning, and child

“Does Teacher Preparation Matter? Evidence About Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher
Effectiveness,” pdf, 2005; and Thomas J. Kane, Jonah E.
Rockoff, and Douglas O. Staiger, “What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence
from New York City,” Working Paper 12155, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Mass.,
April 2006.
Donald Boyd et al., “How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect
Student Achievement,” Education Finance and Policy, vol. 1, 2006, pp. 176-216.
Paul Decker, Daniel Mayer, and Steven Glazerman, The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings
from a National Evaluation (Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, MPR Reference No: M-8792-
750, 2004).
Boyd et al., op. cit.; Darling-Hammond, op. cit.; and Kane, Rockoff, and Staiger, op. cit.
Bess Keller, “Chicago Wants TFA to Commit Longer,” Education Week, 22 September 2004, p. 14.

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development. Most European countries include a full year of closely supervised clinical
practice in a school associated with the university as part of universal preservice
preparation. Other countries, such as Japan, require extensive on-the-job training for
teachers in their initial “apprenticeship,” with coaching and 60 days per year of seminars
and classroom visits providing guidance and support that prepare novice teachers to lead
their own classrooms. Master teachers supervise beginning teachers by observing,
suggesting areas for improvement, and discussing effective instructional strategies.

Similarly, in an attempt to strengthen teacher preparation in the U.S. and to alter

experienced teachers’ roles in teacher training, some schools and universities across the
country are collaborating to create professional development schools. These schools are
designed to support the learning of new and experienced teachers and to restructure
schools of education.50 In partnership with universities, veteran teachers serve as mentors
for new teachers and work with university faculty members to develop the preparation
curriculum and make decisions about instructional practices. Not only do such schools
promote collaboration and provide hands-on training for new teachers, but they also
redefine the roles of experienced teachers by giving them an opportunity to take on
leadership positions. Studies show that teachers trained in professional development
schools feel better prepared, more often apply theory to practice, are more confident and
enthusiastic about teaching, and are more highly rated than teachers prepared in other

More recently, shortages of high-quality teachers have led large urban school districts to
initiate their own versions of the professional development school approach. For example,
the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Plan for Excellence collaborated to create the
Boston Teacher Residency; Chicago implemented the Academy for Urban School
Leadership through a nonprofit agency chartered by the city schools; and Denver started
the Boettcher Teachers Program in two of its schools, with the help of the Boettcher
Foundation, the Public Education and Business Coalition, and the University of Denver.52
Together, these programs form the Coalition of Urban Teacher Residencies. Each
program builds on a medical residency approach to train new teachers, very much like the
professional development school model. The programs recruit recent college graduates and
midlife career changers to complete a yearlong paid residency with an expert mentor
teacher while they also take coursework toward certification and a master’s degree in
education. When they have completed a year-end portfolio evaluation and the required

Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler, The Learning Gap (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992).
Linda Darling-Hammond, Marcella L. Bullmaster, and Velma L. Cobb, “Rethinking Teacher Leadership
Through Professional Development Schools,” Elementary School Journal, vol. 96, 1995, pp. 87-106.
Renee L. Clift and Patricia Brady, “Research on Methods Courses and Field Experiences,” in Marilyn
Cochran-Smith and Kenneth M. Zeichner, eds., Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on
Research and Teacher Education (Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum, 2005), pp. 309-424; Gloria A. Neubert and James B.
Binko, “Professional Development Schools: The Proof Is in the Performance,” Educational Leadership,
February 1998, pp. 44-46; and Suzanne Yerian and Pamela L. Grossman, “Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions
of Their Middle-Level Teacher Education Experience: A Comparison of a Traditional and a PDS Model,”
Teacher Education Quarterly, Fall 1997, pp. 85-101.
Information about the Boston Teacher Residency is available at www.; information about the
Academy for Urban School Leadership, at; and information about the Boettcher
Teachers Program, at

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coursework, program graduates begin teaching independently within their residency

districts the following year. They continue to receive mentoring while they begin to
teach. Finally, program participants must commit to teach in the district for at least three
or four years. This model of preparation brings committed, well-prepared individuals into
high-need urban schools with the hope of keeping them there.

A Teach for America residency

In view of TFA teachers’ limited preparation and considering the promise of these
innovative approaches, I recommend that Teach for America develop a residency training
model with the following features:

1. Extend the program’s current two-year commitment to three years. Corps members will serve as
residents during their first year. Then they will go on to teach on their own for at least
two subsequent years.

2. Require all first-year corps members to complete a residency year in an experienced teacher’s
classroom within their placement district and at (or near) their placement grade level. During this
year, corps members will co-teach with a mentor teacher who is deemed highly effective
at raising student achievement. The mentor teacher, in collaboration with a TFA program
director or university instructor, will scaffold the corps member’s training, so that the
corps member first observes the mentor teacher and discusses instructional strategies and
eventually leads the classroom while the mentor assesses and provides feedback on the
corps member’s performance. During this year of residency, not only will corps members
acquire collaborative skills and instructional expertise, but they will also gain an
understanding of the community context in which they will teach, and they will complete
coursework for certification.

3. Cluster TFA “residents” at high-performing urban schools. Each of the programs in the
Coalition of Urban Teacher Residencies concentrates its participants at a small number of
schools that have a large number of expert teachers and adept administrators. Like
prospective teachers who train in professional development schools, residents under this
model would collaborate within a school community that provides a positive culture and

4. Offer courses through a university partner for first-year corps members to obtain certification and a
master’s degree. During the residency year, corps members will also take courses through a
local partner university so that they may complete their teacher certification requirements
and have the opportunity to obtain a master’s degree. While TFA currently partners with
local universities in most of its placement sites, stronger relationships between TFA and
these partners — and between coursework and clinical experiences — must be developed
if residents are to integrate theory and practice and apply what they are learning.

5. Provide incentives to teach longer than three years. A range of incentives could be offered,
including opportunities to take on leadership roles, as well as stipends and forgivable loans
for accepting additional responsibilities. Teachers who serve for longer than three years
could also serve as liaisons among members of the partnership and provide support and

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

professional development to novice teachers. After gaining substantial teaching experience,

these longer-term corps members could serve as mentors in one of the residency training
schools and partner with university colleagues in offering support and coursework.

Challenges to implementation

Since these strategies would require an overhaul of Teach for America’s approach to
teacher preparation, there are many issues to address before proceeding.

Funding. School districts currently provide full salaries to TFA corps members. A different
funding structure would need to be developed to support first-year corps members during
their residency year, as many districts could not afford to support two teachers for a single
classroom. Additional funds would also be needed to compensate mentor teachers and
longer-term TFA teachers who took on leadership roles, although these roles already exist
in a number of districts. Some possibilities follow:

• As the Chicago teacher residency does, TFA and the districts could adopt a
graduated pay scale that would pay first-year corps members less than the normal
first-year teacher salary, while longer-term corps members would receive a stipend
in addition to their regular salary for fulfilling a mentor or leadership role. In
addition, teachers who decided to remain at their placement sites for longer than
their commitments could be granted forgivable student loans, with a specific
percentage of the balance forgiven for each additional year teaching at the site.
Federal funds are available to help underwrite such programs to keep teachers in
high-need schools.

• Model first-year funding on the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) model. This
program offers a small stipend ($10,000) to first-year residents. In addition,
residents must pay tuition of $10,000 for their university coursework, but BTR
offers them a no-interest loan to cover this cost, which is reduced and ultimately
eliminated if residents remain as teachers in the district for three years. Teach for
America could use a similar approach.

• If Teach for America alters its approach to include a year of residency, it may be
able to reduce its summer institute training or even replace it with training
administered within the cities or school districts where corps members are placed,
thereby greatly reducing the costs. Corps members may be better served by
completing an intensive training in their placement district under the guidance of
an expert mentor teacher from that district so that they can acquire knowledge
about the specific context in which they will teach.

• Instead of devoting funding to recruitment and to expanding the corps at the

current rapid rate, Teach for America could use this funding to implement the
preparation model proposed. While this may hinder TFA from meeting its
expansion goals, the model would produce a number of high-quality teachers who
would be likely to remain for more than two or three years at their placement

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sites. This would reduce the demand for new teachers and provide greater benefit
to districts, schools, and students.

Capacity. If Teach for America desires to initiate these changes, it will need to consider its
capacity to do so. One issue will be recruiting enough mentor teachers to match the
number of first-year corps members. TFA currently recruits veteran teachers for its
summer institute, and these people are certainly candidates for mentoring positions during
the school year. Furthermore, because TFA has been placing teachers in some cities for
over 10 years, there are some sites that have a reasonable number of alumni still in
teaching, and they would be an excellent pool of mentors and could also provide
connections to other experienced teachers.

In addition, the organization would need to form partnerships with local universities and
with local school districts. Thus far, Teach for America has been successful at securing
such partnerships within each placement city, but none has thus far been as involved as
this new strategy would require. New models of coursework may need to be developed,
and instructors may need to be hired. The Boston Teacher Residency has a curriculum
coordinator who works to develop the coursework and to seek university faculty members
to help design and to teach each of the required courses. The Chicago Residency works
with National-Louis University and the University of Illinois at Chicago to design and
offer coursework that is linked to the clinical experience.

Existing structures. Teach for America would have to make some decisions about the
existing structures of the organization. For example, it would have to consider making
changes to or eliminating the summer institute to supply funding for a new system. It
would also have to consider the current support systems within each placement city. For
example, the roles and responsibilities of program directors would change within this
model, as they not only would work with corps members but also would collaborate with
mentor teachers, school principals, and university faculty members.

Possible objections. If the Teach for America commitment is extended to three years, some
applicants may be reluctant to apply, thus limiting the pool of highly qualified candidates.
However, better training and support should encourage other recruits, and the incentives
offered in the third year and beyond should overcome some resistance. Surveying and
conducting focus groups with current corps members regarding the use of a residency
model would help TFA determine which kinds of recruits would be interested in
participating in a longer-term alternative track. Furthermore, some school districts will
prefer the model, as it provides better-prepared entrants who have a better chance of
staying in teaching longer. This improvement may encourage districts to contribute funds,
just as a growing number are creating residency and intern programs of their own.

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Next steps. Before implementing a program-wide change, Teach for America would be
wise to pilot the new strategy in one placement site and assess its effectiveness. Such a site
should be chosen after assessing such resources as the availability of mentor teachers, the
number of effective schools to serve as residency sites, and the potential for district and
university support. New strategies should be implemented for no less than three years
before evaluating results, as this would provide enough time for at least one cohort of
corps members to complete their service under the new model.


While these proposals would require substantial redesign of the TFA model, the results are
likely to be worth the investment. Teach for America has the potential to effect large-scale
change in the field of education. It recruits highly qualified, motivated corps members
who appreciate the importance of equal educational opportunities, and many go on to
devote their lives to this mission. However, these bright individuals are not as effective in
the classroom as they could be, and their students do not perform as well as students in
classrooms where teachers have more formal training. Corps members who are given a full
year to learn effective instructional practices and to fully prepare to work within the
context of their placement site will be better prepared to enter their classrooms as skilled
teachers. If TFA can prepare its recruits to be more successful in their classrooms from the
beginning of their service, it may be able to achieve its vision more effectively, so that, as
the TFA mission states, “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to
attain an excellent education.”

In 2000, the U.S. Department of Education commissioned the National Research Council to
conduct a study of teacher licensure examinations nationwide. The following is a summary of the
Council’s report.
Document #8: Julie Blair, “Teacher Tests Criticized As Single Gauge,” Education Week,
April 4, 2001.
Teacher-licensure exams provide important clues about the knowledge and skills of
prospective pre-collegiate educators, but such tests should never be used as the sole
measure of an aspiring teacher’s abilities, argues a report released last week by the National
Research Council.
Yet 42 states and the federal government not only rely heavily on test scores to judge the
quality of teachers and their teacher-preparation programs, but they also link those results
directly and indirectly to funding, the study found.
“Using only one method [of assessment] is unlikely to tap the full complexity of what it
means to be a good teacher,” said Barbara S. Plate, the director of the Buros Center for
Testing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who served on the 19-member committee
that wrote the report. “In order to cover the totality of competencies, you need to have
multiple measures and variety in those kinds of measures.”

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The report, “Testing Teaching Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving
Teacher Quality,”53 was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and prepared by
the National Research Council
Release of the study comes just before colleges and universities are required by federal law
to submit comprehensive report cards to states profiling their teacher-preparation
programs and graduates. The data, due April 9, must include passing rates on state exams,
among other information.
States, in turn, are required by Congress to rank institutions by those passing rates and
place them into quartiles in a second report card to be submitted to the U.S. Department
of Education by Oct. 9.
According to the NRC report, the requirements of that law, Title II of the Higher
Education Act, reauthorized in 1998, “create a mechanism that could limit federal funding
to state and teacher-preparation programs based on students’ performance on state teacher
Supporters of such measures, meanwhile, argue that passing rates on state exams provide
essential information about the qualifications of new teachers. They believe that readers of
the report cards will know in one glance which schools are producing graduates who meet
minimum state standards.
“No one is under any illusion that the tests do anything more than that,” Rep. George
Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce
Committee and a co-sponsor of the Title II legislation, said in a statement. “Schools of
education are the beneficiaries of $2 billion annually in federally subsidized student aid.
We think the least those schools could tell us is whether or not those students are being
adequately prepared to pass their first hurdle in entering the teaching profession.”
Technically Sound
State education officials, representatives of teacher-preparation programs and K-12
schools, college officials, and education researchers served on the National Research
Council’s committee.
The panel examined a sample of five teacher-licensing exams produced by the Educational
Testing Service, the Princeton, N.J., test-maker that provides many of the exams used. All
the assessments were taken from the PRAXIS I and II series, which test mastery of basic
skills, subject-matter knowledge, and understanding of the theories needed to teach it.
National Evaluation Systems, a company based in Amherst, Mass., is also a predominant
producer of such tests. But “despite concerted and repeated efforts,” the NRC committee
said, it could not obtain enough information about that company’s tests to draw
conclusions about them.

[The text of the report is available on the Web at
074207%2Fhtml%2F .]

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Exams are administered at various points in an aspiring teacher’s career: for admission to a
teacher-preparation program, upon entry to student teaching or at graduation, and to
obtain a license. While some states use only one assessment during a student’s preparation,
others give several exams before his or her formal entry into the field.
The study found that standardized tests used to license beginning teachers are technically
sound and do provide important information. However, the panel found, they don’t
reveal all that educators understand, or adequately predict classroom success.
Initial-licensure tests “rely almost exclusively on content-related evidence,” the report
says. “Few, if any, developers are collecting evidence about how test results relate to other
relevant measures of a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities.”
It is distressing, then, says the report, that 42 states rely heavily on standardized tests to
gauge the competence of novice teachers.
Title II Measures
The report also finds fault with the federal government for indirectly using passing rates on
such exams to determine which teacher-preparation programs will be barred from
receiving some federal funding. Under Title II of the Higher Education Act, Congress can
withhold financial aid from students who attend traditional or alternative teacher-
preparation programs, and money earmarked for professional development from schools
that are deemed “low performing” by the states—a designation often made by looking at
passing rates.
To prevent their institutions from being so designated, the NRC panel says, states may
increase mandatory passing rates on exams—a move that could keep many people out of
the profession at a time of teacher shortages in many places and specialties.
Because minority students tend to score lower than their white peers on standardized tests,
the report says, the diversity of the teaching workforce could be limited.
Officials at the Education Department, however, say that Title II in no way mandates that
states use passing rates on teacher-licensing exams as the sole criterion in determining
which institutions are low- performing.
States can, in fact, use any number of factors in making that decision, said Maureen A.
McLaughlin, a deputy assistant secretary for the education department. Moreover, no
federal funding will be withdrawn from teacher-preparation programs or students unless
the state first loses confidence in the school and cuts off that source of funding, she said.
The debate over the worth of single and multiple assessments has been raging for years and
will continue to be an important debate, said David G. Imig, the president and chief
executive officer of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a
Washington group that represents 735 teacher- preparation programs.
“We know no single test will adequately measure the ability of teachers to perform or to
achieve results in the classroom,” he said.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one state where teacher testing has been particularly controversial,
especially after 59 percent of those who took the exam failed its first administration.
Nevertheless, officials there say they are pleased with the outcome. Massachusetts has
improved its teacher workforce substantially by requiring prospective educators to take
basic-skills tests in order to earn licenses, said Ann L. Duffy, the state’s associate
commissioner for education quality.
The tests, produced by National Evaluation Systems, provide districts with the knowledge
that candidates have at least met a minimum standard, she said, and show colleges and the
state which skills teachers have not mastered. That leads to needed changes in programs,
she said.
Ms. Duffy added that Massachusetts uses other measures as well to judge prospective
teachers, such as college transcripts.
“It is a baseline measure,” Ms. Duffy said of the teacher test. “It is one piece of the
‘A Low Bar’
Despite the state’s pledge to use multiple measures, decisions on hiring ultimately rest with
passing rates on the standardized tests, said Stephen E. Gorrie, the president of the
Massachusetts Teachers Association.
“The bottom line is that even if you are highly successful in college,” Mr. Gorrie said,
“and you don’t pass the test, you don’t get into the school system.”
Some educators and policymakers say that standardized exams are useful because they
illuminate which teacher-preparation programs need improvement.
“We would certainly argue that state teacher-licensing exams are by no means good
enough or rigorous enough, but if schools of education can’t get students to pass such a
low bar, they have no business in the area of teacher preparation,” said Amy Wilkins, a
principal partner at the Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that
promotes high achievement for poor and minority students. Failure on state licensure
exams “should send up a big, red flare,” said Ms. Wilkins, whose organization helped draft
the Title II legislation.
Rep. Miller, the California Democrat, pointed out that the intent of Title II was, in part,
to spur schools of education to undertake changes. States such as New York and Texas,
which have already employed get- tough accountability laws similar to the new federal
policy, show improved scores on licensing exams, especially on those tests taken by
minority students.
That means institutions are changing to meet the needs of their students, Mr. Miller said.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Among the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was the requirement that “all public
school teachers of core academic subjects meet the highly qualified requirements of their state by the end
of the 2005-2006 school year, and that new teachers in school programs serving high-need student
populations (i.e., Title I-targeted assistance programs or school-wide program schools) meet the highly
qualified requirements immediately.” While in principle an unexceptionable concept, implementing
this provision has raised a host of unanticipated consequences for schools, districts, and states. We
begin our consideration of the federal provision with a report from then-Secretary of Education Rod
Paige on progress made in the three years following passage of NCLB.

Document #9: U.S. Department of Education, Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers
Challenge: The Secretary’s Third Annual Report on Teacher Quality (Washington, 2004).55
Chapter 1 excerpts.

Highly Qualified Teachers Matter

Highly qualified teachers matter. While on the face of it this simple declaration seems
obvious, it is only in recent years that rigorous research evidence has begun to emerge to
support what educators, parents and students have long viewed as plain truth: Teachers are
an important determinant of a child’s education, of a good school and ultimately--of the
future economic health of this great nation (McCaffrey, Lockwood, Koretz and Hamilton,
We know that being a highly qualified teacher matters because the academic achievement
levels of students who are taught by good teachers increase at greater rates than the levels
of those who are taught by other teachers. In fact, highly qualified teachers are able to
raise the academic achievement levels of all students to high levels--not just the students
who are already performing well (due to the diligent work of prior teachers, strong
parental involvement or innate aptitude). Consider that the difference between having a
good teacher for three years in a row versus another teacher can represent as much as 50
percentile points in student achievement on a 100-point scale (Babu and Mendro, 2003;
Mendro, Jordan, Gomez, Anderson and Bembry, 1998; Rivers, 1999; Sanders and Rivers,
1996). This is an influence greater than race, poverty level or parent’s education (Carey,
As a nation, we spend billions of dollars on public elementary and secondary schools and
then billions more addressing the lack of basic skills among students and employees. While
recent reforms have seen a welcome rise in national math scores, overall test scores have
remained flat for the last 30 years (Peterson, 2003). Moreover, international comparisons
show that our high school students continue to lag behind high school students in many
other industrialized countries in measures of math and science achievement (The Teaching
Commission, 2004). Perhaps even more disturbing are the educational achievement gaps
between students of different races and means within many of our nation’s school systems.
The Fourth Annual Report, available at, focuses on teacher
preparation programs as does the Fifth Annual Report, available at There do not appear to have
been reports published since then.
Available at

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In economic terms, our nation simply cannot afford a poorly educated workforce, ill
equipped to compete in an increasingly global market.
The Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge
The nation needs highly qualified teachers to reduce achievement gaps between students
of different races and means and to raise overall student achievement. Moreover, the
realities of an aging teaching force suggest that identifying and addressing the key policy,
regulatory and practical barriers to recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers is even
more urgent for the nation if we hope not to lag behind other high-performing nations.
Indeed, investments in improving the preparation, support and retention of good teachers
are among the most important that we can make for the future of the nation. Such
investments include:
• Improving the preparation of new teachers through the establishment of high state
standards and accountability for initial teacher preparation and licensure.
• Reducing barriers to becoming a teacher among otherwise highly qualified
individuals by retooling traditional teacher preparation programs and opening up
alternative routes to teaching.
• Reforming state and local policies to ensure that qualified and effective teachers
serve the neediest students.
• Improving the content knowledge of experienced56 teachers as well as providing
them with supports and incentives aligned to what matters most (including
providing incentives to teach in hard-to-staff schools and high-demand subjects
and for improvements in student performance).
Importantly, in so doing, as a nation we must hold true to two key principles: the need to
continue to raise academic standards for teachers, while at the same time working to lower
barriers that are keeping many talented people out of the teaching profession.
What Is a “Highly Qualified Teacher?”
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires that all public school teachers of core
academic subjects meet the highly qualified requirements of their state by the end of the
2005-2006 school year, and that new teachers in school programs serving high-need
student populations (i.e., Title I-targeted assistance programs or school-wide program
schools) meet the highly qualified requirements immediately. To be highly qualified, a
teacher must possess at minimum a bachelor’s degree, have full state certification and
demonstrate subject matter mastery in each subject taught.
For elementary school teachers new to the profession, teachers must demonstrate subject
matter mastery by passing a rigorous state test of subject knowledge and teaching skills in

Experienced teachers refers to those teachers who are not new to the profession (i.e., had been hired
before the first day of the 2002-2003 school year) as defined in NCLB, Section 200.56.
Core academic subjects include English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages,
civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

reading and language arts, writing, mathematics and other areas of the basic elementary
school curriculum. New middle and high school teachers may demonstrate competency
by passing a rigorous state test in each subject taught or by holding an academic major or
course work equivalent to an academic major (or an advanced degree, advanced
certification or credentials).
Experienced teachers (those hired before the start of the 2002-2003 school year) may
demonstrate competency by either meeting the requirements for new teachers or by
meeting criteria set by the state. NCLB allows each state to create a high, objective,
uniform state standard of evaluation (HOUSSE) by setting criteria that:
1. Are established by the state for grade-appropriate academic subject matter
knowledge and teaching skills.
2. Are aligned with challenging state academic content and student achievement
standards and developed in consultation with core content specialists, teachers,
principals and school administrators.
3. Provide objective, coherent information about the teacher’s attainment of core
content knowledge in the academic subjects in which a teacher teaches.
4. Are applied uniformly to all teachers in the same academic subject and the same
grade level throughout the state.
5. Take into consideration, but are not based primarily on, the time a teacher has
been teaching the academic subject.
6. Are made available to the public upon request.
The HOUSSE system of evaluation may involve multiple, objective measures of subject
matter competency.
Flexibility and New Opportunities for State Leadership
While NCLB outlines a minimum set of requirements related to content knowledge and
teaching skills that a highly qualified teacher must meet, it provides the flexibility for each
state to develop a definition of highly qualified that is consistent with NCLB as well as
with the unique needs of each state. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Education
recently announced greater flexibility in three areas, offering new opportunities for state
policymakers and administrators to provide leadership in meeting the highly qualified
teachers challenge.
The first new area of flexibility recognizes that teachers in small, rural and isolated areas--
areas that represent about one-third of the nation’s school districts--are often assigned to
teach multiple subjects. As such, these teachers face unique challenges in meeting the
highly qualified provisions and may need additional time to meet the requirements in all
subjects they teach. As long as experienced teachers in eligible districts are highly qualified
in at least one subject, they will now have until the end of 2006-2007 to become highly
qualified in the additional subjects they teach; newly hired teachers must also meet the
highly qualified requirements in one subject, but would have three years after their date of

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

hire to meet the requirements in the other subjects they teach. Furthermore, districts must
provide these teachers with the training and support they need to meet the requirements
in the extended time.
For science teachers, the Department will allow states the flexibility to use their own
certification standards to determine subject-matter competency, rather than requiring it for
each science subject. For example, if a state certifies teachers in the general field of science,
a science teacher may demonstrate subject-matter competency through a “broad field” test
or major. If a state requires certification or licensure in specific science subjects, such as
chemistry, biology or physics, the teacher would be required to demonstrate competency
in each of the subjects.
The third area of flexibility recently announced assists experienced teachers who teach
multiple subjects, particularly teachers in middle schools and those teaching students with
special needs. Under the new guidelines, states may streamline their highly qualified
teacher evaluation process so that experienced multi-subject teachers can demonstrate that
they are highly qualified in each of their subjects through only one process.
Conclusion: An Overview of National Progress
In partnering with states, institutions of higher education, schools and teachers to bring a
highly qualified teacher to every classroom, the Department is serious about addressing the
teacher quality challenge. As a nation, what progress are we making?
According to HEA Title II data (and detailed in succeeding chapters), over the last three
years many states and territories have made progress on a number of fronts. Between 2001
and 2003:
• In recognition of the importance of ensuring significant content knowledge among
prospective teachers, states report raising academic standards in certification
requirements, including ending emergency certification, as required by law.
• States report having made progress in implementing criteria for assessing teacher
preparation program performance.
• States report opening up alternative routes to the classroom for prospective
teachers. Many states have approved one or more alternative routes, and several are
currently considering, or have proposed, new or additional alternative routes to
Of course, other indicators demand further consideration, investigation and action. For
• Because minimum passing scores for most state academic content assessments for
prospective teachers are set below the national averages on these exams, such
assessments tend to screen out only the very lowest performing teacher candidates.
• Barriers for teachers pursuing traditional routes to certification and licensure
generally have not been lessened.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

• The numbers and distribution of teachers on waivers remain problematic. In fact,

states report that the problem of underprepared teachers is worse on average in
districts that serve large proportions of high-poverty children.
In addressing the remaining challenges, the U.S. Department of Education is committed
to doing its part.


Babu, S. and Mendro, R. (2003) Teacher accountability: HLM-based teacher effectiveness incides in the investigation
of teacher effects on student achievement in a state assessment program Paper prepared for the 2003 American
Educational Research Association meeting, Chicago, IL.

Carey, K. (2004). “The real value of teachers: Using new information about teacher effectiveness to close
the achievement gap,” The Education Trust, 8 (1): 5.

McCaffrey, D., Lockwood, J.R., Koretz, D., and Hamilton, L. (2003) Evaluating value-added models for teacher
accountability. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation)

Mendro, R., Jordan, H., Gomez, E., Anderson, M., and Bembry, K. (1998) An application of multiple linear
regression in determining longitudinal teacher effectiveness. Paper presented at the 1998 Annual Meeting of AERA,
San Diego, CA.

Peterson, P. (2003). “Little gain in student achievement,” Chapter 2 in P. Peterson (ed.) Our schools and our
future…Are we still at risk? Stanford, CA: The Hoover Institution.

Rivers, J. (1999) The impact of teacher effect on student math competency achievement. Dissertation, University of
Tennessee, Knoxville. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 9959317, 2000.

Sanders, W. and Rivers, J. (1996) Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future academic achievement.
Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center.

Teaching Commission, The. (2004) Teaching at risk: A call to action. New York: Author. Available online
at Accessed July 6, 2004.

At the same time as the foregoing report from the Department of Education was released, the
National Council on Teacher Quality released two reports on states’ efforts to comply with the
“highly qualified teacher” provision of NCLB. The Council was less sanguine than the
Department, as is evident in the following excerpts from the two reports:

Document #10: Kate Walsh and Emma Snyder, Searching the Attic: How states are
responding to the nation’s goal of placing a highly qualified teacher in every classroom (Washington:
National Council on Teacher Quality, 2004)58


This report, the second in a series published by the National Council on Teacher Quality,
examines states’ progress in meeting the new federal requirement that by the end of the

Available at

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2005 - 2006 school year there will be a “highly qualified teacher” in every classroom in
the nation.

This new requirement has led to some discomfort in more than a few states. No longer are
states able to decide independently what constitutes a qualified teacher; they must also
consider a federally imposed standard that addresses the teacher’s knowledge of subject
matter. In this context, No Child Left Behind has cast a shadow over the integrity and
value of the states’ teacher certification systems. States are now required to separately assess
teachers’ subject-matter knowledge, a process viewed by many as an unwanted diversion
from long-standing and well-tended certification systems.

This report examines what states are requiring of their practicing teachers in order to
comply with the law. As most current teachers were certified before No Child Left
Behind was enacted, states must retrofit their old definitions of teacher quality to the
federal law’s new expectations, to ensure that all classrooms—not just the classrooms of
new teachers—are staffed with highly qualified teachers.

In the short term, the prospects are dim for making genuine strides in improving teacher
quality. The law’s clarity on the academic preparation required of new teachers1 bodes a
more promising future, but where veteran teachers are concerned the law is doomed to
disappoint, save in a minority of states. The evidence accumulated here suggests that the
highly qualified teacher provisions will be brought down by the burden of NCLB’s
internal compromises and ambiguity and by states’ unwillingness to cede control no matter
how important the cause.

Even with the 2006 deadline looming, only a handful of states appear willing to comply
with the spirit of that portion of the law that seeks to correct the long-tolerated,
widespread and inadequate preparation of American teachers in their subject areas. Some
states are indifferent or even antagonistic about the prospect of declaring significant
numbers of their active teachers unqualified.

Colorado, in fact, stands alone in demanding that all of its practicing teachers meet an
objective standard of their subject-matter knowledge. Veteran teachers there have a choice
of passing a test in the subject(s) they teach or accumulating coursework nearly equivalent
to a college major. Oregon sets a similarly high standard but only for its newer teachers.
Alabama, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Maryland and Hawaii require that all of their teachers, no
matter when they entered the profession, and no matter what the certification rules once
permitted, should at least hold a college minor in the subjects they teach. Though their
standard falls short of NCLB’s goal of an academic major for all levels of teaching, this
group of states offers a pragmatic response that other states should consider.

Most of the remaining efforts are half-hearted, achieving a gossamer-like quality whereby
elaborately crafted state plans reveal themselves to be little more than an elaborate
restatement of the status quo. Most common are plans that require veteran teachers to earn

There is one glaring ambiguity: the notable absence of a federal definition for the amount of coursework
that constitutes a college major or minor. A number of states accept 24 credit hours as a college major, while
most of the nation’s more selective colleges view 30 credit hours as the norm.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

a set number of points to be labeled “highly qualified.” Thirty states offer teachers a menu
of approved activities, each of which has been assigned a point value. In most cases, the
range of activities is too many for a district to responsibly oversee. And in most cases the
activities connect very loosely to teacher’s subject-matter knowledge, such as working on
a school committee, participating in educational travel, or mentoring a new teacher.
Perhaps out of desire to show flexibility or perhaps in an effort to minimize the disruption
and anxiety to teachers, many states have gutted the law’s opportunity to achieve
meaningful reform.

Most states share neither the urgency nor the single-minded focus of the U.S. Congress in
seeking to address the low academic standards required of American teachers, arguably the
least rigorous among all developed nations. Seven states grant teachers highly qualified
teacher status by achieving what all but a tiny fraction of teachers routinely achieve: a
satisfactory mark on their annual evaluations.

Eleven states insist that their existing certification systems are up to the job, no matter
what U.S. Congress has asked them to do differently. Some of these states such as Idaho
and Utah already had high academic standards, but also in this group are states such as
South Dakota and Washington whose confidence in the adequacy of their certification
process for these purposes is misplaced.

Whatever model a state uses for its veteran teachers, few jurisdictions appear to have the
political stomach for remedying the impact of substandard, expired certification
regulations. Many have exempted large numbers of veteran teachers, arguing that their
current regulations demonstrate the right kinds of policies even though most of these
teachers were hired under a different set of rules and markedly lower standards.

Likely Consequences for Noncompliance

It’s not clear what consequences—if any—states will face if they do not meet the highly
qualified teacher deadline for either practicing or new teachers. While the law specifies no
particular penalty for noncompliance, the Secretary of Education can opt to withhold
funding; education officials in the Bush administration have stated that they intend to use
this authority.
A likely scenario is one in which the U.S. Department of Education targets a few states for
particularly egregious noncompliance. Such an action might prod other states to rethink
their approaches. But given the kid-glove approach taken by both the Department of
Education and most states toward veteran teachers, it seems most likely that the
department will choose to target states found noncompliant on new teachers.

Wang, A., Coleman, A., Cohen, R., Phelps, R. (2003) Preparing Teachers Around the World,
Educational Testing Service,; Education Directorate, Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (2004 forthcoming) Teachers Matter Attracting Developing and Retaining
Effective Teachers. Paris: OECD.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts


For both substantive and pragmatic reasons, Congress should revisit the structure of the
highly qualified teacher provision. In seeking to raise the bar, the law may actually ask too
much in certain circumstances while not demanding enough in others. National standards
can and should be raised but premised on firmer ground.

The U.S. Department of Education needs to spell out the coursework that represents a
college major as being no fewer than 30 credit hours and a college minor as being no
fewer than 15 credit hours.

• All high school teachers should have a major in the primary subject they teach and
a minor in any additional related subjects they teach. In a sorry nod to political
reality, high school teachers who began teaching before 2001 should be considered
highly qualified with only a college minor (15 credit hours). While some might
argue this sets the bar too low, it may produce better results than the current mix
of high standards and abundant loopholes.

• Rural schools forced to hire a single teacher to teach multiple unrelated subjects
should be permitted to apply for an exemption to this ruling, provided they do so
annually and parents are appropriately notified that their school are unable to
recruit teachers who meet the federal standard.

• Absent a research consensus needed to support the assumption that middle school
teachers should have a subject matter major, the law should be amended to allow
both new and practicing middle school teachers to have a minor (15 credits) in the
subject(s) they teach. Given the numbers of middle school teachers in the United
States now teaching without a major (ranging from 51 percent to 93 percent
depending on the subject taught), it is clear that many effective schools do not
view an academic major as a requisite for teaching at this level.

• New elementary teachers trained in undergraduate teacher programs should earn,

at minimum, a 30-credit hour major in the liberal arts, focusing on areas of
particular relevance to states’ K-5 curricula (mathematics, English, science, social
studies, art and music). Practicing elementary teachers who entered the profession
before 2001 should satisfy a somewhat less demanding standard of a 24-credit
liberal arts concentration (two classes in each of the four principal content areas).
Teachers at this level should be permitted to earn these credits through either
university-level coursework or the equivalent in content-focused professional

• All practicing teachers who do not want to take additional coursework needed to
meet these standards should have one option available to them: passing a subject-
matter test.

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• All new teachers should pass a subject matter test regardless of their coursework. In
addition, elementary teachers should pass a test in scientifically based early reading

• An independent commission appointed by the Institute for Education Sciences, the

independent research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, should develop
recommendations to states on the appropriate passing scores for the most widely
used subject-matter tests, including tests used by states to assess teachers’
knowledge of reading instruction. States would not be required to adopt these
recommended scores, but an annual report would describe the state variances.

• An independent commission appointed by the Institute for Education Sciences

should determine the academic rigor (as measured by the estimated grade
equivalence of knowledge a teacher needs to pass the tests) of the most widely used
subject-matter tests. An annual report would describe the rigor of the tests used in
each state.

• The U.S. Congress should require states to inform their school districts if
prospective teachers that they have been certified but were unable to pass their
subject matter licensing tests under the recommended national guidelines.

Absent the necessary revision to the department’s regulatory guidelines and even
amending NCLB where necessary, states should limit their definitions of a highly qualified
teacher to a collection of college-level coursework that is equivalent to a college major,
minor, or advanced degree in the subject area; appropriate professional development in the
content area for elementary teachers only; advanced credentialing such as National Board
certification; or a subject-matter test. While many teachers take exception to these
requirements, there is plenty of precedent in other professions for such a move. Doctors,
nurses, accountants, real estate agents and other professionals must continue to prove
subject-matter competency through objective measures such as coursework or subject
matter exams.

There is no evidence to draw upon that would justify a state declaring itself immune to
the nation’s chronic and well-documented shortage of qualified teachers. This said, a
number of states can offer constructive models to others on the commitment needed to
improve the quality of our children’s teachers.

Massachusetts is given a score of D+ in the foregoing NCTQ report with the following comment:
“A complicated ‘Individual Professional Development Plan’ that makes a good choice when it
requires that teachers only use current activities and coursework to meet highly qualified status—no
retroactive allowances which most states make. On the downside, points are doled out too generously
(a teacher achieves one-third of the points needed for a single 3-credit course) and many points for
activities with no direct relevance to content knowledge (e.g., preparation for an accreditation visit).
Most contrary to the goals of NCLB, Massachusetts insists that only 80 percent of the points must be
in the “subject area taught”: the rest can be in teaching practices and related subjects.”
Massachusetts’ 2007 report on Title II compliance is found at ]

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Document #11: Christopher O. Tracy and Kate Walsh, Necessary and Insufficient: Resisting
a full measure of teacher quality (Washington: National Council on Teacher Quality, 2004)61

For all the conflict generated by various K-12 education reform efforts, there is one
principle everyone agrees on: teachers need to know the subject matter they teach. This
principle makes sense to parents, educators, and policy makers alike. On the importance of
a teacher’s knowledge the views range from those who believe subject knowledge to be of
paramount importance to those who believe it to be a “necessary but not sufficient”
condition for effective teaching.

While this principle may generate broad agreement, putting it into practice is another
story. Traditionally, institutions that train teachers and the states that license them have
emphasized teachers’ pedagogical training over subject matter knowledge. This
preoccupation, warranted or not, has produced an alarming number of teachers who are
insufficiently grounded in the subjects they teach.

There is no shortage of evidence that teachers’ preparation in their subject matter has
taken a back seat to their pedagogical training—even at the secondary level, where there is
solid consensus about the need for strong content knowledge. The licensure systems
prescribed by states do little to rectify this imbalance; in fact, they may well be responsible
for it. The U.S. Department of Education reported in 2003 that although nearly 94
percent of teachers had been certified by their states to teach, approximately half of all
secondary teachers did not have a college major in their assigned subjects. A quarter of
secondary teachers lacked even a minor (equivalent to as few as five college courses) in
their assigned subject. The new requirements for teachers in No Child Left Behind
(NCLB) have just begun to reveal the true extent of this problem, masked previously by
certification. For instance, one out of four middle school teachers in Pennsylvania, all
certified to teach in Pennsylvania, recently failed a test in their own subject area.

The problem is even more pronounced in districts serving children who are poor.
Philadelphia has reported that two-thirds of the middle school math teachers who recently
took a test (assessing math skills typically acquired by the 10th grade), failed. The lack of
essential course work provides no more encouraging news than do the low pass rates on
tests. A 2002 study of teachers working in urban districts found that one in three
secondary teacher classes are taught by teachers without even a minor in their subject

Leading Up to Federal Intervention

Responsibility for rectifying this problem rests with states, the institutional bodies that
regulate and grant teacher licenses. Yet even as they are daily confronted by evidence that
teacher subject matter knowledge is shockingly weak, too often states have been slow and
ineffective in their response. At the time the No Child Left Behind Act was passed into
law, less than half of all states required high school teachers to have majored in their subject

Available at

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

area. Only a slim majority of states (29) required teacher candidates to pass a relatively
simple subject matter test that would provide an objective measure of teacher knowledge.

The teacher quality provisions in No Child Left Behind may represent an unprecedented
(and largely unwelcome) intervention of the federal government in teacher quality issues,
but there is no question that they address a real problem ignored by many states.

Mixing Good Policy with Political Reality

In fashioning the teacher quality provisions of NCLB, Congress made an important but
politically charged decision: not only would new teachers have to meet the new standards,
but experienced teachers would as well. Congress could have opted to grandfather in
experienced teachers, exempting them from meeting NCLB’s “Highly Qualified
Teacher” provisions. That option would have been the more politically tenable move,
one that would also have avoided requiring unenthusiastic states to collect whole new
kinds of data on their teachers and would have held at bay the constant press reports about
teachers feeling degraded by having to prove their competency.

In the end, Congress decided against exempting experienced teachers, presumably because
it agreed with many policy makers, researchers, and school districts that the problem was
acute enough that the nation could not simply wait for teacher turnover and retirement to
provide the solution. However, Congress did not go so far as to make experienced
teachers (generally having at least three years of experience) meet the same criteria as new
teachers, who are now required by law to either possess a major in their subject area or to
pass a subject matter test. In a concession to flexibility, Congress decided to let
experienced teachers elect to use a third route not available to new teachers.

The specifics of this third route are only loosely described in the federal law. Essentially,
each state is charged with designing its own set of standards for teachers with at least three
years of experience, provided federal guidelines are followed (see box). These standards are
called the HOUSSE, meaning High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation. As of
March 2004, 30 states had finalized their HOUSSE standards.


More than two years after NCLB became law, the nation has just passed the halfway mark
toward the January 2006 deadline when most teachers will need a “highly qualified”
designation to stay in the classroom. This report from the National Council on Teacher
Quality is the first of several reports on this topic that will be issued in the months leading
up to the deadline. For this first report, we have reviewed the standards of 20 randomly
selected states, most of them in final form, though a few are considered to be drafts and are
still fairly malleable.

In lieu of a major, teachers may also provide evidence of a sufficient amount of relevant course work,
through the successful completion, in each of the subjects in which a teacher teaches, of either 1) a graduate
degree, 2) course work that is equivalent to an undergraduate major, or 3) advanced credentialing.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Each state was given a grade for the quality of its standards. State standards were graded on
the basis of their rigor; the likelihood that they will identify teachers weak in subject
knowledge; the degree to which they reflect that a state is serious about addressing the
problem; their clarity; and, finally, on how readily accessible they are to the public.
(Appendix 1 describes the grading process in detail.)

States have generally adopted two kinds of standards. Most states decided to employ a
point system. Such states have predetermined what activities are legitimate and how many
points each activity is worth. When a teacher has acquired 100 points, the state deems the
teacher highly qualified. Other states use an evaluation system that is to varying degrees
based on their existing teacher evaluation systems. The one exception to states’ use of one
of these two systems of standards is Idaho, which has decreed that any certified teacher is
highly qualified.

All of the states selected for this first review were given the opportunity to comment and
make corrections. Most states did submit comments and this report reflects their input. In
subsequent reports, NCTQ will review the standards of the remaining states and also
revisit any changes made to the standards of these original 20 states.

The results are decidedly mixed. The average grade is a dreadful D+, though the grades
varied from A to F (with one “incomplete”). The standards range from reasonable and
responsible attempts to meet the spirit of the law to approaches that can best be described
as indifferent and at times even disdainful.

States getting high marks devised standards that respect the law’s intent. Illinois and
Oregon, for example, recognize that short of a test, college- or graduate-level course work
is the most reliable, objective measure of content knowledge. These states have created
standards that compel teachers to document their knowledge via content-area course
work. Oregon, in fact, does not even allow its high school teachers to use its HOUSSE
standards in order to be judged highly qualified, requiring them instead to take a test in
the content area. The standards range from reasonable and responsible attempts to meet
the spirit of the law to approaches that can best be described as indifferent and at times
even disdainful.

States getting low marks appear unwilling to address a problem that plagues the nation as a
whole and seem to believe that “business as usual” is an appropriate response. States have
also proved wildly inventive at coming up with an array of activities that are supposed
indicators of teacher subject matter knowledge, but which can at best be said to bear only
slight relation to such knowledge.


With remarkable consistency, state HOUSSE standards fell victim to five common

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

1. Irrelevancy

This problem permeates most of the state standards: teachers may elect from a menu of
options that at best tortuously relate to subject matter competency. For example, many
states permit such activities as serving on a curriculum development team or mentoring a
new teacher to count toward subject matter knowledge. Alabama teachers can count
learning how to become better managers of their classroom. A few states give credit to
teachers who head an academic club. Three states (California, Michigan, and West
Virginia) give credit for completing a National Board application, even if the teacher fails
to earn certification. Oklahoma teachers can rest on the laurels of their own students who
place “first, second, or third in an academic competition.”

In some states, jargon replaces hard evidence and clear goals. For California teachers, the
ambiguous skill of “communicating learning goals” counts. Equally ambiguous, South
Carolina teachers earn credit for “assessment planning” and “monitoring and enhancing
learning.” Virginia veers the opposite direction by providing an atomic level of directives
to teachers, giving credit for an “educational project,” which might include “exchange of
assignments by an elementary reading specialist and a local public librarian.”

2. Why Change?

Many states seem to think themselves immune from the challenge of insufficient teacher
quality. Their standards neither identify nor help teachers in need. For example, South
Carolina has merely tweaked its existing teacher evaluation system to include subject
matter competency as one of the skills principals should look for during two classroom
observations. Idaho takes each aspect of the federal guidelines and explains how their
current certi- fication process ensures that their teachers have strong content knowledge.
In so doing, Idaho is essentially making the argument that they are so confident in their
certification program that developing a plan for teachers who fall through the cracks is not
necessary—which may or may not be the case.

3. Say What?

In many states, the standards are inordinately complex, leaving teachers and administrators
hard-pressed to know what to do. Consider this language from one of three options
within the Michigan plan: “[Teachers must] have at least 3 years of teaching experience
and, before the end of the 2005-06 school year, have completed an individual professional
development plan approved by the local school improvement team, including completion
of professional development activities that are aligned with the state professional
development standards and consisting of at least 90 contact hours or 6 semester hours of
course work in a standards-based (in accordance with the SBE-approved standards that are
aligned with the applicable Michigan Curriculum Frameworks) subject/content subject
area program related to the current teaching assignment, and documented with the local
district in a form approved by the MDE.”

4. Fishing with Hula Hoops

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Some states have created such enormous loopholes that there is little likelihood that weak
teachers will be identified and helped—and in fact, the weakest teachers are most likely to
take advantage of these loopholes. While most states provide teachers with the option of
taking a test or a college-level class, they also offer teachers easier ways to maneuver
around these objective and generally more rigorous measures.

For example, New York’s standards give teachers ten different options to prove their
subject matter knowledge. For teachers with four or more years of experience, one option
is to document five graduate courses in their subject. Another is to document a bachelor’s
degree in education and supervise a student teacher. Which are more teachers likely to

5. Two Plus Two Does Not Equal Four

Some standards defy logic. In Georgia, teachers receive as much credit for attending two
conferences as they do for earning a doctoral degree in their content area. In Oklahoma, a
teacher who publishes an article in his or her discipline receives the same amount of points
as a teacher who sponsors an academic club. In California, teachers receive the same
amount of points for taking six to seven courses as they do for being a mentor for a year.
Though states that implemented point systems did not necessarily collaborate with each
other when developing their standards, one might have expected to see some semblance
of common values assigned to the various options. Instead, they assign wildly different
numbers of points for the same activity. Alabama teachers earn a single point (of the 100
points needed) for each credit hour of course work they take; in contrast, Virginia teachers
earn nearly 17 for the same effort.

At the end of 2005, Education Week devoted much of an issue to the question of meeting the
NCLB requirement for highly qualified teachers. The following is one of the articles from that issue:

Document #12: Bess Keller, “Actual Measure of ‘Highly Qualified’ Teachers Just
Beginning to Come to Light Across Nation: First and second rounds of reported data
based largely on guess work,” Education Week, December 14, 2005.

If the No Child Left Behind law’s prescription for “highly qualified” teachers had worked
out the way it appears on paper, states would have gotten a good look at how far they had
to go as far back as 2003. Then, as envisioned by Congress’ 2001 overhaul of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act, they would have marched steadily toward the
goal of outfitting each core-subject classroom with a teacher who meets the NCLB
standard by the end of this school year.

Instead, many officials and observers say, the first round of data from states on the
proportion of classes taught by highly qualified teachers was largely guesswork, and the
second round was not much better. Only the statistics due Jan. 1 will tell a reliable story,
officials in several states say.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

“Every year, it’s getting better,” ventured Steven Olson, who is in charge of the teacher-
qualification figures for the Rhode Island education department. “I’m very comfortable
with it this year,” he said of the data’s reliability.

Keith Rheault, the state schools chief in Nevada, reports similar progress. “I can
document all our [2004-05] numbers,” he said, unlike those in the preceding two years.
Even with the improvement, the 2004-05 numbers are expected to remain inaccurate in
at least some states. A report ordered by Congress and released last month found that
“several limitations on the quality and precision of state-reported data make it difficult” to
get good figures.

In fact, nine states don’t even collect data on the percentage of core academic classes
taught by highly qualified teachers, which is required by the U.S. Department of
Education. Instead, they report the data by teachers or full-time equivalencies. States have
had to submit highly qualified statistics to federal officials as part of their applications for
federal education aid. The figures for the 2004-05 school year are not due until Jan. 1, but
22 states and the District of Columbia had provided them to the Editorial Projects in
Education Research Center by mid-November. Eighteen other states provided 2003-04

Of the 22 states and the District with 2004-05 data, 14 reported that at least nine out of 10
classes in their schools were taught by highly qualified teachers that year. The number rises
to 25 if the states with 2003-04 data are included. Most states posted improvements
compared with the statistics submitted to the U.S. Department of Education three years

In addition to mandating a highly qualified teacher in every classroom, the law calls on
states to ensure that students in high-poverty schools have the same access to highly
qualified teachers as do other students. Twelve of the 22 states and the District with 2004-
05 data report that the percentage of classes in high-poverty schools taught by highly
qualified teachers is better than or within 2 percentage points of the statewide figure.
When states with 2003-04 data are included, 20 report the percentage of classes taught by
highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools is better than or close to the statewide

Given the state of data collection over the past three years, it is hard to know what the
improved numbers represent, state officials say. On the one hand, districts and states have
been making efforts to strengthen their teacher corps. On the other, what it takes for a
veteran teacher to be deemed highly qualified has not been clear in some states until very
recently. Perhaps the higher numbers show that more teachers who already had the
background to be considered highly qualified have at last been counted.

More Oversight

Many advocates of raising teacher quality say that federal officials have failed to push the
law’s teacher-quality agenda sufficiently and left states without the guidance or support
they needed to do a better job.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Some also charge that what they see as the law’s narrow definition of teacher quality—it
emphasizes knowledge of subject matter over classroom skill—limits serious improvement
even without implementation problems.

Knowing What You Teach

According to the No Child Left Behind law, by the end of this school year, new teachers of
core academic subjects must demonstrate knowledge of the subjects they teach by passing
subject-knowledge tests or by completing subject-area majors. Almost every state now has one
of those requirements in place.

Note: California and North Carolina require high school teachers to take either a subject-knowledge test or
obtain a major. They receive credit in the map for requiring a test.
SOURCE: Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, 2005

To meet the “highly qualified” standard, each teacher of a core subject must have a
standard license from the state and demonstrate knowledge of the subject taught. New
teachers have to do that by taking and passing tests in the subjects they teach or
completing college majors in them. Teachers who were in the classroom three years ago,
soon after the federal law was enacted, may go those routes or take an alternative one
devised by their states within federal guidelines. Almost all the states now offer such
alternatives, though they vary considerably in their requirements.

Federal officials say that their oversight of teacher quality has stepped up over the past

“We’ve monitored 35 states thus far, providing them with a lot of guidance,” said René
Islas, a special assistant for teacher quality in the Education Department. “We at the
department are very confident that states have the capacity to report accurate data … due
at the beginning of the year.”

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

In an Oct. 21 letter, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings shifted away from a
focus on the looming deadline and emphasized the need for progress. She said that states
that want a year’s reprieve from the threat of losing federal funds will have to show
evidence they have been building the systems needed to take responsibility for the quality
of their teaching forces. The deal also requires states to map out how they intend to move
forward and subject their plans to the scrutiny of federal officials.

“If they haven’t been attracting teachers to hard-to-staff schools,” Mr. Islas said by way of
example, “we’ll want to see that they have made efforts to provide incentives to go

The new tack has heartened some critics of the Education Department’s handling of the
NCLB law’s teacher-quality provisions, such as Ross Wiener, the policy director of the
Education Trust, a Washington-based advocacy group for poor and minority students. He
said that the threat of punishments for not meeting the deadline had helped create an
“unfortunate dynamic” that made honest and accurate information a liability.

“You’d hope honest information would lead to talks with the legislature and higher
education institutions, with state school officials saying here’s what we need to bridge the
gaps,” Mr. Wiener said.

Instead, low numbers tended to get the wrong kind of attention from the news media and
lawmakers, he said. And once a state had posted high numbers, a downward revision was
hard, he added.

Mr. Rheault, the Nevada superintendent, said that legislators in his state had wanted
explanations for the low teacher-quality numbers. Seventy-one percent of Nevada’s classes
overall, and just 65 percent of its classes in high-poverty schools, were taught by highly
qualified teachers last year, according to the state’s figures. Those proportions were up
slightly over the previous two years.
With more than two-thirds of Nevada’s new teachers coming from out of state, districts
have problems making sure the recruits have passed the state’s multisubject test required
for highly qualified status, Mr. Rheault said.

In Delaware, education officials don’t expect to be able to produce teacher-quality figures

for classes until the end of this school year.

“We have tried to meet all the reporting requirements we can,” said Robin Taylor, the
associate superintendent for assessment and accountability. “But we have limited resources
in terms of [money] and personnel and programming.”

Initially, some Delaware districts told the state that 100 percent of their classes were taught
by highly qualified teachers. “I knew that wasn’t right,” Ms. Taylor said. The state now
has a process for verifying such data.

Complicated Effects

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Education Department officials cited four states’ teacher-quality data systems as particularly
sound: Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

In Ohio, state officials said they benefited from an extensive data system already in place.
“We were able to build the high-quality-teacher data on top of that,” said Marilyn B.
Troyer, the associate superintendent for teacher quality. Ohio reported that 82 percent of
classes overall and 78 percent of classes in high-poverty schools were taught by highly
qualified teachers in the 2002-03 school year. Those proportions had risen to 93 percent
and 85 percent, respectively, last year. “I still don’t anticipate reaching 100 percent by the
end of this school year,” she said.

She said she thought that the state’s numbers had been helped by schools’ greater care in
assigning teachers to classes and by new professional-development opportunities that had
helped teachers win highly qualified status. A just-launched pilot program that offers
bonuses to some teachers working in shortage fields in high-poverty schools might help
shrink Ohio’s teacher-quality gap, Ms. Troyer said.

Across the country this year, districts are grappling with the effects of the nearly 4-year-
old federal law. They are also seeing its complications play out in schools and classrooms.
Stephen C. Lewis, the director of human resources for the 12,000-student Gresham-
Barlow district near Portland, Ore., said that district administrators met this fall with all 19
principals, pinpointing for them where each of their faculty members stood in meeting the
teacher requirements. Of the 660 teachers, fewer than 50 were still in the process of
getting highly qualified status—most at the middle school level, according to Mr. Lewis.
But a handful had yet to get in their initial paperwork so that their status could be
officially determined, he said.

Because of the challenges the law poses for middle schools, a teaching “block” combining
English and history might be done away with in the Gresham-Barlow system. The block
arrangement requires teachers to be highly qualified in both subjects—a difficult task given
that many hold elementary certification, which is not enough to show subject mastery in
either field.

Mr. Lewis said he suspected that some teachers who were taking courses to gain highly
qualified status knew more than the college instructors who taught them. But he cited the
district’s small high school for students who weren’t fitting in elsewhere as a success story.
“We had to work really hard to get highly qualified staff there,” he said, because typically,
the teachers are responsible for more than one subject. As a result of that effort, he said,
“I’m sure the faculty is better.”

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Who is ‘Highly Qualified’?

The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to report the percent of classes taught by
“highly qualified” teachers, perhaps the best measure since teachers can satisfy that
requirement for some subjects they teach but not others. Twenty-eight states, as shown
below, however, report the percent of highly qualified teachers more generally. Nine of
those 28 states report only the more general measure and not whether teachers are highly
qualified for each of their assignments or classes.

SOURCE: Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, 2005

We end this section of the casebook by taking a quick look at what is generally agreed to be the gold
standard in teacher accreditation. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an
independent, not-for-profit agency, has been evaluating and accrediting teachers for nearly twenty
years. Intended as a means of recognizing outstanding experienced teachers, the National Board
process is extensive and demanding. In recognition of the prestige associated with National Board
certification, some districts reimburse teachers for the $2,500 application fee. The following excerpts
from the National Board’s Web site explain the accreditation process, which stands in sharp contract
with the standardized teacher licensing examinations we have been reading about in this case:
Document #13: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, About NBPTS
( )
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was created in 1987 after the
Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy’s Task Force on Teaching as a
Profession released A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (May 16, 1986).

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The report followed the landmark report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational
Reform, 1983, developed by the President’s Commission on Excellence in Education. A
Nation at Risk set off alarms across the country with statements like, “If an unfriendly
foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational
performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” Educators,
parents, business executives and legislators awakened to the economic and social
consequences of an education system failing to keep pace with a changing American and
global society.
The Carnegie task force report, A Nation Prepared, offered solutions: “The key to success
lies in creating a profession equal to the task—a profession of well-educated teachers
prepared to assume new powers and responsibilities to redesign schools for the future.”
The task force urged the teaching profession to set the standards and certify teachers who
meet those standards and called for the formation of the National Board for Professional
Teaching Standards.
The members of the task force outlined a plan designed to retain, reward and advance
accomplished teachers through a system of advanced certification. The National Board for
Professional Teaching Standards was created from the framework of these ideas. Many of
the task force members remain involved in the continuing evolution of the National
Board today.
The National Board is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan and non-governmental
organization governed by a 63-member board of directors, a majority of whom are
classroom teachers. The other directors include school administrators, school board
leaders, governors and state legislators, higher education officials, and business and
community leaders…
The National Board’s mission is to advance the quality of teaching and learning by:
• maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should
know and be able to do,
• providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards,
• advocating related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification in
American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified
The National Board concentrates education reform efforts on the heart of education—the
teacher. We believe the single most important action the nation can take to improve
schools and student learning is to strengthen teaching. As our founding chair Governor
James B. Hunt, Jr. of North Carolina succinctly states, “Improved student learning
depends on one thing to start with—a quality teacher.”
National Board Certification is a symbol of professional teaching excellence. A National
Board certificate will attest that a teacher was judged by his or her peers as one who is
accomplished, makes sound professional judgments about students’ best interests, and acts
effectively on those judgments. Offered on a voluntary basis, National Board Certification

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

complements, but does not replace, state licensing. While state licensing systems set entry-
level standards for novice teachers, National Board Certification establishes advanced
standards for experienced teachers.
National Board Certification also represents an opportunity for professional growth unlike
any other now available to teachers. Teachers across the nation are able to gauge their
skills and knowledge against objective, peer-developed standards of advanced practice.
And as teachers hone their professional skills, their students reap the greatest rewards.
Broad support for National Board Certification comes from Democratic and Republican
governors and legislators, state and local school boards, the nation’s two largest teachers
unions, teacher educators, education organizations, and classroom teachers.
The National Board has received the endorsement of the former President of the United
States, Bill Clinton, a wide range of associations including the National Governors’
Association, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the American
Federation of Teachers, the Council for American Private Education, the Council of
Great City Schools, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, the National
Conference of State Legislatures, the National Education Association, the National School
Boards Association, among others.
The private sector has also provided board support for National Board Certification.
Foundations, corporations and other private entities have determined that efforts to
advance professional development for teachers is key to achieving a better educational
system. These include, among others, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Pew
Charitable Trusts, DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, Lilly Endowment, Inc., AT&T,
IBM, Proctor and Gamble, RJR Nabisco, State Farm Insurance Companies and Xerox.
For the first time in history, the National Board created a system of advanced certification
for teachers based on high and rigorous standards and built the nation’s finest system to
assess accomplished teaching. The National Board achieved what many thought
impossible: we identified Five Core Propositions that describe the knowledge, skills, and
dispositions that characterize accomplished teaching and created, where none existed
before, professional standards for the nation’s K-12 teachers.

Policy Position (Five Core Propositions)

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards seeks to identify and recognize
teachers who effectively enhance student learning and demonstrate the high level of
knowledge, skills, abilities and commitments reflected in the following five core
• Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
Accomplished teachers are dedicated to making knowledge accessible to all
students. They act on the belief that all students can learn. They treat students
equitably, recognizing the individual differences that distinguish one student from
another and taking account of these differences in their practice. They adjust their

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

practice based on observation and knowledge of their students’ interests, abilities,

skills, knowledge, family circumstances and peer relationships.
Accomplished teachers understand how students develop and learn. They
incorporate the prevailing theories of cognition and intelligence in their practice.
They are aware of the influence of context and culture on behavior. They develop
students’ cognitive capacity and their respect for learning. Equally important, they
foster students’ self-esteem, motivation, character, civic responsibility and their
respect for individual, cultural, religious and racial differences.
• Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects
to students.
Accomplished teachers have a rich understanding of the subject(s) they teach and
appreciate how knowledge in their subject is created, organized, linked to other
disciplines and applied to real-world settings. While faithfully representing the
collective wisdom of our culture and upholding the value of disciplinary
knowledge, they also develop the critical and analytical capacities of their students.
Accomplished teachers command specialized knowledge of how to convey and
reveal subject matter to students. They are aware of the preconceptions and
background knowledge that students typically bring to each subject and of
strategies and instructional materials that can be of assistance. They understand
where difficulties are likely to arise and modify their practice accordingly. Their
instructional repertoire allows them to create multiple paths to the subjects they
teach, and they are adept at teaching students how to pose and solve their own
• Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
Accomplished teachers create, enrich, maintain and alter instructional settings to
capture and sustain the interest of their students and to make the most effective use
of time. They also are adept at engaging students and adults to assist their teaching
and at enlisting their colleagues’ knowledge and expertise to complement their
own. Accomplished teachers command a range of generic instructional techniques,
know when each is appropriate and can implement them as needed. They are as
aware of ineffectual or damaging practice as they are devoted to elegant practice.
They know how to engage groups of students to ensure a disciplined learning
environment, and how to organize instruction to allow the schools’ goals for
students to be met. They are adept at setting norms for social interaction among
students and between students and teachers. They understand how to motivate
students to learn and how to maintain their interest even in the face of temporary
Accomplished teachers can assess the progress of individual students as well as that
of the class as a whole. They employ multiple methods for measuring student
growth and understanding and can clearly explain student performance to parents.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

• Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from

experience. Accomplished teachers are models of educated persons, exemplifying
the virtues they seek to inspire in students—curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness,
respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences—and the capacities
that are prerequisites for intellectual growth: the ability to reason and take multiple
perspectives to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and
problem-solving orientation.
Accomplished teachers draw on their knowledge of human development, subject
matter and instruction, and their understanding of their students to make
principled judgments about sound practice. Their decisions are not only grounded
in the literature, but also in their experience. They engage in lifelong learning
which they seek to encourage in their students.
Striving to strengthen their teaching, accomplished teachers critically examine their
practice, seek to expand their repertoire, deepen their knowledge, sharpen their
judgment and adapt their teaching to new findings, ideas and theories.
• Teachers are members of learning communities. Accomplished teachers
contribute to the effectiveness of the school by working collaboratively with other
professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and staff
development. They can evaluate school progress and the allocation of school
resources in light of their understanding of state and local educational objectives.
They are knowledgeable about specialized school and community resources that
can be engaged for their students’ benefit, and are skilled at employing such
resources as needed.
Accomplished teachers find ways to work collaboratively and creatively with
parents, engaging them productively in the work of the school.
We then built a system of National Board Certification so that teachers, like professionals
in other fields, may achieve distinction by demonstrating, through a demanding
performance assessment that they meet high and rigorous standards for what accomplished
teacher should know and be able to do.
We have a growing number of accomplished teachers and the impact of these National
Board Certified Teachers is already evident in the classroom and in the larger education
We achieved an unprecedented political and professional consensus for National Board
standards and certification. This teacher-policymaker collaboration around the work of
the National Board is revitalizing the largest profession in America—teaching.
When the National Board was founded in 1987, our work was just a vision, a series of
ideas and dreams. From 1987 through 1992, we focused on the critical policy, research
and development work that would lay the foundation for National Board Certification,
which was offered, for the first time, in two certificate areas during the 1993-94 school

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

General Information About National Board Certification

Teaching is at the heart of education, so one of the most important actions the nation can
take to improve education is to strengthen the teaching profession.
National Board Certification concentrates education reform in the classroom—where
teaching and learning takes place. National Board Certification is a demonstration of a
teacher’s practice as measured against high and rigorous standards.
Equally important, the National Board Certification process, requiring intense self-
reflection and analysis of one’s own practice, is a forceful professional development
experience. Having measured their practice against the highest standards for the profession,
teachers say that their teaching is resultantly more focused, reflective, confident. Teachers
speak eloquently about how the experience produces deeper student learning outcomes in
classrooms. They are strengthened in their practice and emerge from the experience with
a with lasting commitment to professional growth.
Offered on a voluntary basis and valid for 10 years, the advanced system of National Board
Certification complements, but does not replace, state licensing. Each state, school district
and school decides how best to capitalize on the National Board Certification process and
the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers as it designs instructional arrangements
to promote student learning and support professional practice. The fee for National Board
Certification is $2300.
Based on High and Rigorous Standards

The National Board’s work is guided by five core propositions that articulate what
teachers should know and be able to do. This expression of ideals guides the development
of the National Board’s standards and assessment. Using these core propositions as a
foundation, NBPTS standards further detail what constitutes accomplished teaching in
every subject and for students at all stages of their development.

The influence of the NBPTS standards is pervasive throughout the National Board
Certification process. They form the basis for the performance-based assessments that are
at the heart of the National Board Certification system. They drive the structure of the
assessment exercises as well as the scoring rubrics.

Performance-Based Assessments

To identify teachers who make these standards come alive in the classroom, and to help all
teachers move toward accomplished teaching, the National Board has developed cutting-
edge, performance-based assessments to measure teaching practice against these high and
rigorous standards.

What is unique about this process is that it assesses not only the knowledge teachers
possess, but also the actual demonstration of their skills and professional judgment as
applied daily in the classroom. Candidates for National Board Certification must critically
analyze and reflect on their practice and demonstrate how effectively they act on their

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Reflecting the Complexity of Teaching

The National Board’s standards and performance assessments constitute the framework for
National Board Certificates. They are structured to reflect the way teachers really teach –
by their expertise across subject matter and their knowledge of how students learn at
different stages of their development. These assessments draw the focus of the NBPTS
standards into the classroom and reflect a vision of teaching as a collegial enterprise
involving complex decision-making. During the certification process, a teacher’s students
are actively involved and they work together to analyze student work, classroom lessons,
and instructional objectives.

There is a direct connection between what teachers know and what students learn. The
high standards of teacher knowledge and skill underlying National Board Certification
assures that National Board Certified Teachers possess deep subject knowledge and the
ability to teach that subject in ways that help students learn.

Reshaping the teaching profession

National Board Certification is shaping reforms that build quality assurance and
professional accountability into the teaching profession. It provides a new definition of
excellence in teaching.

Reflecting NBPTS standards, accomplished teachers in every field and at every level are
aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it. They are conscious of where
they want students’ learning to go and how they want to help students get there. They
assess progress toward these goals continuously and adjust their strategies and plans in light
of this feedback. Accomplished practice shows itself in the teacher’s ability to set high and
appropriate goals for student learning, to connect worthwhile learning experiences to
those goals, and to articulate the connections between the goals and the experiences.
Furthermore, accomplished teachers can analyze classroom interactions, student work
products, and their own actions and plans in order to reflect on their practice and
continually renew and reconstruct their goals and strategies.

Influencing the Educational System

National Board Certification and the work of the National Board for Professional
Teaching Standards can be a catalyst for lasting change. It is already redefining teaching as
a career by stimulating new incentive structures, staffing patterns, and organizational
arrangements. It is bolstering reform in teacher education by casting the knowledge base
in richer light. Many teacher preparation programs are using the National Board’s
standards as models of accomplished teaching for future teachers. And it can both help
increase the flow of first-rate people into the teaching profession and stem the tide of
those departing.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

National Board Certification Process

All National Board assessments consist of two major parts, the portfolio entries and the
assessment center exercises. While the specific directions to candidates seeking National
Board Certification vary from one assessment to another, as is appropriate for differences
in content and developmental level of students, the major parts of the assessments are
stable over all certificate areas offered.
In general, teachers prepare their portfolios by videotaping their teaching, gathering
student learning products and other teaching artifacts, and providing detailed analyses of
their practice. The portfolio is designed to capture teaching in real-time, real-life settings,
thus allowing trained assessors to examine how teachers translate knowledge and theory
into practice.
At the assessment center, teachers write answers to questions that relate to content specific
to their fields. These exercises are designed to validate that the knowledge and skills
exhibited in the portfolio are, in fact, accurate reflections of what candidates know and
can do; and give candidates an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and skills not
sampled in the portfolio because of the candidate’s specific teaching assignment. The
assessment center exercises sample the breadth of the content knowledge associated with
the certificate field.
A successful candidate must have completed and submitted all required portfolio entries
and assessment center exercises and meet the performance standard of 275 points. National
Board Certification is issued for a period of 10 years, after which a National Board
Certification Teacher will have the opportunity to maintain his or her standing as a
National Board Certified Teacher by satisfying a renewal requirement.

The Portfolio

Candidates seeking National Board Certification are asked to put together a portfolio
according to specifications given in directions and materials developed by the National
Board. The portfolio offers candidates the opportunity to sample and present their actual
classroom practice over a specified time period. Each specific portfolio entry is designed to
reflect activities that teachers engage in naturally during their work and were developed in
collaboration with practicing teachers who verified their feasibility in school settings and
their value as both assessment entries and vehicles for professional discussion and growth.
The portfolio consists of several different entries, each of which asks for direct evidence of
some aspect of the teacher’s work and an analytical reflective commentary on that
evidence. The portfolio is completed in the classroom and includes student work,
videotapes and other teaching artifacts. The videos and student work are supported by
commentaries on the goals and purposes of instruction, reflections on what occurred, the
effectiveness of the practice, and the rationale for the teacher’s professional judgment.
There are a minimum of five months between the date when portfolio directions are
available and the deadline for submitting the portfolio entries. Teachers report a wide
variation of time spent on the complete portfolio, yet most state an expenditure of 200—
400 hours.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Teachers are required to describe, analyze, explain, and reflect on their practice. They
must provide insight into not just what is happening in their classroom, but the rationale
for those events and processes. They are required to systematically analyze student work,
particularly student responses to assignments, class work, assessments, and other
instructional materials. And through the use of videotapes, teachers can provide as
authentic and complete a view of their teaching as possible and portray how they interact
with students, the climate they create in the classroom, and they ways in which they
engage students in learning.
In addition to completing the classroom-based entries, candidates document their work
outside the classroom with families and the larger community and with colleagues and the
larger profession. They must emphasize the quality of the contribution, show evidence of
their accomplishments, and comment on the impact and importance of those
accomplishments for student learning.
A good portfolio reflects the standards and provides evidence of a teacher’s level of
accomplishment. Portfolio Samplers are available to give candidates—or potential
candidates—a clear picture of the kinds of exercises they would be expected to complete.

The Assessment Center

This component of the assessment process consists of assessment exercises that are focused
on a candidate’s content knowledge. Candidates are responsible for content and
pedagogical knowledge across the full age range of a selected certificate area (and specialty
area, if applicable). At the assessment center, candidates respond to exercises that may be
based on advance stimulus materials (sent to candidates well in advance of the assessment
center testing period), on-screen stimulus materials (provided to candidates during the
assessment), or on-site stimulus materials (provided upon arrival at the assessment center).
The assessment center exercises are designed to complement the portfolio and are
organized around challenging teaching issues.
The assessment center exercises are computer-administered during the spring and summer
months at testing centers located in every state in the nation. There are more than 300
centers available to accommodate candidates for National Board Certification, and
candidates can choose any location they wish to attend.


Each portfolio entry and assessment center exercise contains a section that articulates the
criteria by which the entry or exercise will be scored. These scoring criteria serve as the
basis for the scoring guide, or rubric, which is used by assessors in the scoring process. A
final scaled score is computed only for candidates who have submitted scorable responses
to all of the entries and exercises required.
Regardless of the particulars of the entry or exercise directions, the portfolio and
assessment center responses serve as evidence of accomplished practice in the National
Board assessments. All of the NBPTS standards emphasize that accomplished teachers in

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

every field and at every level are aware of what they are doing as they teach and why they
are doing it. They are conscious of where they want student learning to go and how they
want to help students get there. Furthermore, they monitor progress toward these goals
continuously and adjust their strategies and plans in light of this constant and complex
feedback. Accomplished practice shows itself in the teacher’s ability to set high and
appropriate goals for student learning, to connect worthwhile learning experiences to
those goals, and to articulate the connections between the goals and the experiences.
Furthermore, accomplished teachers can analyze classroom interactions, student work
products, and their own actions and plans in order to reflect on their practice and
continually renew and reconstruct their goals and strategies.
Scoring is based on all of a candidate’s responses: videotapes, student work samples,
candidates’ analysis, and written responses to assessment center exercises. Each of these
pieces of evidence helps assessors evaluate a candidate’s work in light of the conscious,
deliberate, analytical and reflective criteria the NBPTS standards endorses. No one
approach to teaching is mandated by the NBPTS standards or rewarded by the scoring
process. Indeed, several different pedagogical approaches characterize the teachers who
have already achieved National Board Certified Teachers status. However, in every case,
National Board Certified Teachers demonstrate the analytical and reflective abilities
defined in the standards.
The National Board offers a Scoring Institute designed for teacher educators and
researchers, facilitators of candidates and others who are interested in National Board
Certification. This seminar describes the structure of our performance-based assessments
and guides participants in simulations of the scoring process. Included in the simulation
will be an introduction to bias training, which all scorers undergo. Working with staff
who have direct experience with the NBPTS scoring system, participants will learn the
complexities involved in assessing teacher portfolios and discuss the implications of this
process for their own work.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

And, not a moment too soon, we arrive in Massachusetts, our case study state.

Background information on Massachusetts and its public schools63

Population (2006) 6,347.193

Ethnic composition:
White 82.8%
African-American 6.1
Asian-American 4.9
Native American 0.8
Other 6.0
Hispanic (of any race) 7.9

Median household income $59,963


Although the landing of the Pilgrims on Nov. 21, 1620, was important, Indians had found
this corner of the country some 3,500 years earlier, and Leif Eriksson and his Norsemen
may have landed somewhere in the Cape Cod region in 1003. European seafarers tapped
the fertile fishing areas throughout the 1500s, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain
mapped the area in 1605, and in 1614 Captain John Smith of the Virginia colony drafted a
detailed map of the New England coast from Penobscot Bay in Maine to Cape Cod.

European settlement

Prior to 1685 there were two separate colonies within the boundaries of present-day
Massachusetts. The area around Plymouth and Cape Cod, settled by the Pilgrims, was
known as Plymouth colony, or the Old Colony. By the mid-1640s its population
numbered about 3,000 people. The Pilgrims were never granted a royal charter; their
government was based on the Mayflower Compact, a document signed by 41 male
passengers on the Mayflower five weeks before their arrival in the New World. The
compact was hardly democratic since it called for rule by the elite, but it established an
elective system and a basis for limited consent of the governed as the source of authority.
The Old Colony was rapidly overshadowed by its Puritan neighbor to the north, the

Population statistics are taken from the U.S. Census, 2000 (
The following information about Massachusetts is drawn from the Encyclopedia Brittanica 2004 article,

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Bay Company. Fueled by the Puritan migration of the 1630s, and an
aggressive sense of authority, the Massachusetts Bay colony expanded rapidly. By the mid-
1640s it numbered more than 20,000 people, and it began absorbing settlements in Maine
and New Hampshire. The government of the colony was based on a providential
interpretation of the royal charter granted by King Charles I, which was transferred to the
new settlement by John Winthrop. The exhortation by Winthrop, “For wee must
Consider that wee shall be as a Citty uppon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us…,”
underlines the strength of conviction of the Puritan mission.

The Puritan government often operated as an independent state, to the point of minting
its own money and even conducting its own foreign affairs. King Charles II finally
abrogated the colony’s charter in 1684 for repeatedly overstepping its authority. In 1691 a
new charter was granted to the Province of Massachusetts Bay after the Glorious
Revolution brought William and Mary to the throne in England. The new province
formally united Plymouth, Maine, and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard
with Massachusetts—a configuration that remained until 1820, when Maine was
established as a separate state.

Settlers had feared Massachusetts for its hostile Indians, but until 1675 relative peace
prevailed because of a pact with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag. This accord was
ended by King Philip (Metacom), Massasoit’s son. His open warfare, King Philip’s War
(1675–76), ended with his own death, but only after hundreds of settlers had been killed
and some 50 towns raided in southeastern and central Massachusetts. Repeated
expeditions against the Indians were common in the 18th century, as Massachusetts men
joined with British troops to fight the French and their Indian allies.

Commercial and industrial expansion marked 18th-century Massachusetts and resulted in

the rapid settlement of new communities, many spurred by speculation. Between 1692
and 1765, 111 new towns and districts were incorporated, while the population increased
to 222,563.

Revolutionary period and statehood

“The shot heard round the world” initiated a new order in Massachusetts and her sister
provinces. The struggle had actually begun several years earlier, when a new spirit grew
out of years of physical struggle and radical ideas involving such concepts as equality,
freedom, and unity. Events in Boston—the fight against the writs of assistance, the Boston
Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and resulting closure of the port of Boston, the Battles of
Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, and the evacuation of the British troops from
Boston—inspired song and verse that came to typify the spirit of the Revolutionary era.
Agrarian unrest in 1786–87 resulted in the only military threat to the new
commonwealth. Governor James Bowdoin was forced to call out a special state army of
4,400 men to suppress Shays’s Rebellion. The unrest and fear generated by the armed
insurrection probably helped advance support for the ratification of the new U.S.
Constitution. A year later, in 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts was in the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, and the resulting changes
guaranteed that by the mid-19th century the state would be vastly different from its
colonial antecedents. A decline in agricultural lands fostered both a migration away from
Massachusetts and the development of large-scale manufacturing enterprises producing
textiles, shoes, and machinery. The rural outlook of the state was lost with the rise of a
number of urban areas, connected by turnpikes, canals, and, later, railroads. The shattering
ofethnic and religious homogeneity through immigrant migration, especially the arrival of
the Irish, accentuated these changes. Property requirements were removed for voters, the
Congregational church was disestablished, black Massachusetts regiments fought in the
American Civil War, and Irish politicians began to be elected to public office. The
population of Massachusetts continued to expand, although at a slower rate than the rest
of the country, until by 1860 it had become the second most densely populated state in
the nation.

The 20th century

The consequences of the Industrial Revolution—increasing urbanization, an economy

based on manufacturing, and a large immigrant population of low-paid workers—had a
major impact on Massachusetts in the 20th century. Most noticeable was the shift of the
textile and shoe industries out of Massachusetts to Southern and Midwestern states. Labor
unrest, economic stagnation, and urban decay followed. The two world wars brought only
brief respites from this decline. The advent of the electronics and communications
industries after World War II finally brought this cycle to a halt. Aided by federal money
for research and development, numerous small corporations began to draw on the
expertise of academics from Boston and Cambridge. High-technology industry began as a
suburban phenomenon, but it has also revitalized many of the larger cities, with their large
mill complexes now home to numerous research and development firms. This renewal has
allowed Massachusetts to maintain its financial, educational, and cultural prominence.

The economy

The economy of Massachusetts today is based largely on technological research and

development, service industries, and tourism. This represents a major shift from the state’s
pre-industrial agricultural basis in the 17th and 18th centuries and the heavy
manufacturing that characterized the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

Fishing and agriculture

Foreign trade, fishing, and agriculture long buoyed the economy. Salem sailors brought
exotic goods from China, the West Indies, and other faraway lands. Fishing was lucrative,
adventuresome, and dangerous—more than 10,000 Gloucester fishermen have lost their
lives over the centuries. Fishing and shipbuilding went hand in hand. Between 1789 and
1810 the Massachusetts fleet grew tenfold, some of it to aid in defense against British and
French aggressions on the high seas. Yankee sailors also found much “black gold” in the
slave trade between West Africa and Southern ports.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

At the height of the whaling boom in the 19th century, 329 whaling vessels sailed from
New Bedford, in addition to others from Nantucket and other ports, bringing in
$10,000,000 worth of cargo each year in their holds. This great industry was not to last,
however: by the turn of the century its contribution to the state’s economy had dwindled
to only a fraction of its former importance. Fishing later suffered substantial reverses as
well. A $42,000,000 annual business in the early 1960s, fishing began to wane late in the
decade because of foreign competition in the traditional Atlantic fishing grounds and the
depletion from over-fishing of such species as haddock and lobster. By the late 1970s,
however, the industry had made a comeback, and Massachusetts usually ranks among the
top three or four U.S. states in value of fish landings.

The generally rocky soils support only truck gardening, although the purple sandy bogs of
southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod produce about 50 percent of the U.S. cranberry
supply. Greenhouse and nursery products are the main source of farm income, followed
by dairy products.


Massachusetts has been a manufacturing state since the early 1640s, when John Winthrop,
Jr. (son of Governor Winthrop), opened a salt works in Beverly and ironworks in Saugus
and Quincy. Francis Cabot Lowell was largely responsible, however, for raising the state
to its manufacturing eminence. Lowell went to England to study methods of textile
operations and built a power loom in Waltham in 1814. He died in 1817, but his
associates developed Lowell, the city built of bricks, with its mills driven by the
Merrimack River.

Yankee ingenuity fostered much early handicraft-based industry, though the influx of
unskilled, low-paid laborers from Europe during the 19th century was the necessary
ingredient for the mass production that developed in the state’s shoe and textile factories.
One of the first and largest shoe plants in America was the United Shoe Machinery
Corporation in Beverly, while the building of the Springfield armory in 1777 boosted
industry in western Massachusetts at the same time that it aided the Revolutionary cause.
Other well-known goods from Massachusetts factories included watches from Waltham,
Salem, and Boston; rockers from Gardner; cutlery and hand tools from Greenfield; guns
and motorcycles from Springfield; leather goods from Peabody; shovels (which were used
by the forty-niners during the California gold rush) from North Eaton; envelopes from
Worcester; paper from Holyoke; silverware from Newburyport; and razor blades from

Today, the electronics and communications industries draw heavily upon the many
educational institutions in and around Boston. The suburbs of Boston have become
known for their research-and-development facilities, which have contributed significantly
to computer technology. Copper and iron were once mined in Massachusetts, but mineral
production is currently limited to sand and gravel, stone, and clay.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts


“Never, in these United States, has the brain of man conceived, or the hand of man
fashioned, so perfect a thing as the clipper ship,” wrote historian Samuel Eliot Morison in
Maritime History of Massachusetts. All clipper ships were built between 1850 and 1855, and
from then on a kind of World Series of ship racing began. The champion was Donald
McKay’s Flying Cloud , which sailed to San Francisco in 89 days, went 374 miles in one
day, and averaged 13.5 knots over four days. Records were not the only motivating factor:
the clippers carried 1,700 tons of cargo.

Symbolic of Massachusetts’ close relation to the sea, the first lighthouse in the United
States, Boston Light, was built off that busy port in 1716.

Water formed the Bay State’s highway system for 200 years. Rivers such as the
Connecticut and Merrimack and man-made canals such as the Middlesex served early
needs well. The Boston Post Road and the Mohawk Trail were the most heavily traveled
of the early roadways. Opened to Boston–New York mail in 1673, the Post Road
consisted of three routes. The Mohawk, an Indian footpath that was converted to an ox
road by the settlers, became the first interstate toll-free road, called Shunpike, in 1786.

In 1826 the nation’s first railroad brought granite from the quarries of Quincy and
Charlestown for the building of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. The cars
were horse drawn. A steam railroad connected Springfield and Worcester in 1839, and 15
systems were shuttling freight among western Massachusetts cities by 1855. Among the
most impressive feats of early railroad building was the 4.5-mile Hoosac Tunnel, drilled
under the Hoosac Range between 1851 and 1875. The first electric street railway was
built in Brockton, and Boston had the nation’s first passenger subway, as well as an
elevated system. Boston’s Logan International Airport, stretching parallel to the harbor, is
one of the few large air terminals in close proximity to a major city.


From the Mayflower Compact, drawn up by the Pilgrims in 1620 when the concept of
“the divine right of kings” dominated Europe and the idea of self-government was little
more than an exotic notion, a form of government evolved of which the people could feel
themselves a part. In 1630 the Puritans settled in Massachusetts under the authority of a
charter granted them by King Charles I of England. The charter was similar to those of
many other trading companies, except that it allowed the officers of the company to meet
in Massachusetts rather than in England. The relative isolation of the colony and the lack
of interference from England allowed the development of a virtually autonomous
government. The state’s legislature, known officially as the Great and General Court,
traces its origins to John Winthrop and his 18 assistants. In a dispute over a stray pig, the
court became bicameral in 1644. The assistants became the upper chamber, while two
deputies elected from each town constituted the House.

After independence was declared, the General Court drew up a constitution for the State
of Massachusetts Bay. It was rejected by the people, in part because it lacked a declaration

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

of rights but also because it was not written by an elected constitutional convention. In
1779 a new convention was elected and convened in Cambridge. John Adams was the
principal author of the new constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which
was ratified in 1780. Many of its features were directly incorporated into the federal
Constitution. One of its provisions permits the governor and his council or the legislature
to seek advisory opinions on questions pertaining to the scope of gubernatorial or
legislative power from justices of the Supreme Judicial Court. Today, Massachusetts is the
only one of the 13 original states still governed under its first constitution, which is the
oldest governing constitution in the world. It has, however, been amended many times.

The first meeting of the General Court as the legislative body of the new state took place
in October 1780, exactly 150 years after the first meeting of the Puritans’ Great and
General Court. It today comprises 40 senators and 160 representatives; both houses serve
two-year terms. The state’s judiciary mainly divides into the district courts for handling
minor matters, superior courts for trial by jury, and the Supreme Judicial Court. Justices
are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Executive Council. The
legislature establishes details concerning the arrangement and operation of the judicial

The legislative process in Massachusetts is characterized by several distinctive features:

legislation may be introduced by citizen petitions; bills are referred to the appropriate joint
standing committee prior to legislative debate; public hearings are held by the committees
for most legislative proposals; and the committees are required to submit a report to the
General Court for each bill, with their recommendation.

Another political phenomenon that grew up shortly after the settlers arrived was the town
meeting, which started as a forum for settling local quarrels and grew to what is in many
smaller towns the community event of the year. (As the poet James Russell Lowell
observed, “Puritanism, believing itself quick with the seed of religious liberty, laid,
without knowing it, the egg of democracy.”) The first recorded meeting was in
Dorchester in 1633, when citizens were summoned by the roll of a drum. A year later
Charlestown organized the first Board of Selectmen, the emergence of such local
government balancing the power of the colony’s executive. The relationship between the
General Court and municipal governments, which was not specified in the constitution,
was finally addressed with the passage of the Home Rule Amendment in 1966. This
provides that municipalities can make changes in their government without securing the
permission of the legislature. A county system was patterned after the English model, in
which the greater powers reside in townships and cities rather than in the counties, which
serve chiefly judicial purposes.

Massachusetts politics is now dominated by the Democratic Party. Fueled by the massive
Irish immigration of the 1840s and ‘50s, the Democrats slowly broke the Republican
monopoly on state political offices. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, politics
became a means to a better life—to a place alongside the “Boston Brahmins” of
Mayflower heritage—for the Irish and other immigrant groups who experienced great
discrimination and hostility. In 1881 Lawrence became the first major city to elect an Irish
Catholic mayor; Boston followed suit in 1884. The Boston Irish politician has become

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

legendary, mostly because of Mayor (and Governor) James Michael Curley, a skillful
orator from a lowly background who was jailed twice, once while in office.

The state has played an important role in national politics. It has contributed five
presidents—John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, and
George Bush—as well as a great number of Cabinet officers, career officers, diplomats, and
congressional leaders.

Exhibit #1: School system statistics

Student population (2005-06) 971,909

Ethnic composition:
White 72.38%
African American 8.27
Hispanic 12.87
Asian American 4.63
Native American .03

Teachers 73,593
Teacher to student ratio 1:13.2

School budget $ 12.2 billion

Per student expenditure $12,552

Sources of school funding:

Federal 6.0%
State 42.7
Local 51.2


Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Exhibit #2: Massachusetts School Governance

Deval Patrick
Massachusetts General Court (D)
(State Legislature)
(Both houses controlled with a
large Democratic majority)
State Board of
(Appointed by

Acting Commissioner
Mitchell Dan Chester

Department of

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Exhibit #3: 2006-07 Massachusetts State Report Card66

Enrollment 2007-08

Total Count 962,806

Male 51.4
Female 48.6

Selected Population Enrollment

Limited English Proficiency 5.8
Low-income 29.5
Special Education 16.9
First language not English 15.1

Educator Quality All High Low

Schools Poverty Poverty
Schools Schools
Total number of teachers 70,717 16,808 17,810
Percentage of teachers licensed in area in which 95.8% 93.5% 97.7%
Total number of classes in core academic areas 275,949 62,439 73,752
Percentage of teachers in core academic subjects 95.7% 92.5% 97.7%
who are Highly Qualified
Percentage of teachers in core academic subjects 4.3% 7.5 2.3
who are not Highly Qualified
Teacher : Student Ratio 1:13.6 1:12.7 1:14.4


Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Exhibit #4: Timeline of events in Massachusetts teacher testing

1993 The Massachusetts General Court (the state legislature) adopts a

comprehensive education reform bill that was two and a half years in
the making. The bill statewide goals and standards and holds
administrators and teachers more accountable.

1998 New Massachusetts teacher certification examination administered for

April the first time. Candidates are initially told the examination will not
count for their certification. Then, ten days before the test, the state
board of education issues a “clarification” informing them that the
tests will, indeed, count.

1998 Commissioner of Education Frank Haydu announces that one third

June of the 1,800 candidates who took the test in April failed the literacy
section, and 59% failed overall. But the state board of education has
yet to set the passing standard. Haydu recommends lowering the
standard so that only 40% will fail. The board agrees

1998 Acting Governor Paul Cellucci calls for competency testing for all
June teachers and says he will fire those who fail the examination.

1998 Frank Haydu resigns as Commissioner of Education, citing the

June governor’s “politicization” of teacher testing.

1998 The state board of education, “flip-flopping mightily,” raises the

July passing standard, restoring the 59% failure rate.

1998 Results of the April tests disaggregated by college and university are
July released. They range from a low of 17.6% of candidates from
Northeastern University who passed the test, to 100% of candidates
from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Education school
administers question the validity and reliability of the test. Boston
University’s John Silber, former chair of the state board of education,
threatens to close BU’s education department unless 80% of
candidates pass the certification test, up from 66% in April.

1998 Results of the second administration of the teacher certification tests

August (in July) indicate that 47% of candidates fail.

1998 Acting Governor Cellucci and James Carlin, chairman of the state
August board of education convene a “summit” of education school
administrators from 44 schools across the state to discuss proposals for
improving the quality of teacher preparation in the state.

1999 National Evaluation Systems of Amherst, Massachusetts, authors of

August the teacher certification test, issue a 1,700-page technical report that

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

finds the test “valid and reliable.”

2000 Acting Governor Cellucci directs the state board of education to

February administer tests of teachers mathematical knowledge in middle and
high schools where more than 30% of students receive less than
passing scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment
System (MCAS) math tests.

2000 The Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Massachusetts

June Federation of Teachers file suit claiming that the teacher test’s fairness
has not been confirmed and that administering it to veteran teachers
violates the provisions of the Education Reform Act of 1993.

2001 Suffolk County Judge Patrick King issues a declaratory judgment

May rejecting the claims of the two teachers unions, clearing the way for
the testing of veteran teachers.

2001 Congress passes the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary

December Education Act, entitled No Child Left Behind. The act requires local
school districts to ensure that all teachers hired to teach core
academic subjects in Title I programs after the first day of the 2002-
03 school year are highly qualified. In general a “highly qualified
teacher” is one with full certification, a bachelor’s degree and
demonstrated competence in subject knowledge and teaching. (Core
subjects include English, reading or language arts, mathematics,
science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts,
history and geography.) The act also calls for all teachers of the core
academic subjects (teaching in Title I programs or elsewhere) to be
highly qualified by the end of school year 2005-06.

“On June 18, 1993, the Massachusetts Education Reform Act was signed into law. This historic
legislation creates the framework for unprecedented improvements in students learning, teachers
professionalism, school management, and equity of funding.”67 The Act included two testing
requirements: the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), the standardized tests
for measuring student performance, successful passage of which is now a high school graduation
requirement in the state, and the Massachusetts Educator Certification Tests (MCET), a licensure
examination for new teachers. The MCET was first administered in April 1998—an event that
was nothing short of an administrative disaster, calling into question not only the competence of
teacher candidates, but also the preparation programs in which they had been prepared and,
ultimately, of the Massachusetts State Department of Education. Clark Fowler tells the story three
years after the event.


Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Document #14: R. Clarke Fowler68, “What Did the Massachusetts Teacher Tests Say
About American Education?” Phi Delta Kappan, June 2001
During the summer of 1998, magazines, newspapers, and the electronic media widely
reported the results of the first administration of Massachusetts’ new tests for aspiring
teachers. The results were notable because 59% of those tested failed an exam that state
officials described as a test of eighth- to 10th-grade skills.
This story was also notable because of the remarkable series of events that accompanied
the announcement of the test scores. The state board of education sparked outrage when it
initially set the cut scores at one standard deviation below the levels recommended by its
own panels of experts. It sparked controversy when it reversed this decision just one week
later, in a vote preceded by the unexpected departure of Frank Haydu, then commissioner
of education, who resigned with the comment that “the political forces have been
This story also made headlines because of the heated and highly quotable rhetoric that
surrounded the affair. Thomas Finneran, the speaker of the Massachusetts House of
Representatives, declared: “I’ll tell you who won’t be a teacher. The idiots who took that
test and flunked so miserably—and, of course, the idiots who passed them.”70
At the heart of this summer-long brouhaha, though, was the oft-repeated statement that
nearly 60% of aspiring teachers had failed a test of “basic skills.” As this new “fact” spread
across the country, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) declared the results of the
Massachusetts tests an “unflattering snapshot of the state of teacher preparation in
This snapshot has had a powerful impact. It launched scores of op-ed articles, helped shape
the Higher Education Act of 1998, and pushed teacher quality to the top of the nation’s
agenda. This picture had such impact because many perceived in it the principal reason for
the purported “failure” of American education: our students aren’t learning enough
because our teachers don’t know enough. For example, when editorialists in Georgia,
writing in the Augusta Chronicle, asked, “Wonder why Johnny can’t read, write, or add?”
they answered by pointing to the results of the Massachusetts teacher tests.
But how accurate is this snapshot that led policy makers and commentators to draw such
sweeping conclusions? According to official data and documents, this now three-year-old
picture was not at all accurate. Rather, it presented a grossly distorted view of aspiring
teachers and of teacher preparation programs. In fact, much higher percentages of
candidates have since passed the Massachusetts teacher tests, now called the Massachusetts
Educator Certification Tests (MECT). What’s more, passing the MECT reflects a higher

R. Clarke Fowler is an associate professor in the School of Education, Salem State College, Salem, Mass.
Elizabeth Mehren, “For Would-Be Teachers, a Failing Grade,” Los Angeles Times, 3 July 1998, p. A-1.
Darrell Pressley, “Dumb Struck: Finneran Slams ‘Idiots’ Who Failed Teacher Tests,” Boston Herald, 28
June 1998, pp. 1, 28.
Richard Whitmire, “High-Quality Teachers Can Have Huge Impact,” Gannett News Service, 10 August

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

level of knowledge and skills than politicians have admitted. Finally, because there are
serious questions about the quality of the tests that produced the original snapshot, it is
impossible to know exactly what the results of the Massachusetts tests have to say about
teacher preparation in Massachusetts—let alone in America.
How Many Have Passed the MECT?
To qualify for certification, aspiring Massachusetts teachers must pass two separate four-
hour exams: a subject-matter exam and a two-part literacy exam (composed of a reading
test and a writing test). When reporters mentioned the passing rate on the first
administration of the MECT, they were referring to candidates who had taken and passed,
in one eight-hour sitting, three distinct examinations in reading, writing, and a subject
area. And when they referred to the “failure rate,” they were referring to candidates who
had taken all three tests in one day but had not passed them all.
When the state board of education finally settled on a cut score in July 1998 (for an exam
that had been administered in April 1998), 70% of the 1,800-plus test-takers passed the
reading exam, 59% passed the writing exam, and 62% passed their respective subject
exams. Just 41% of those who took all three exams actually passed all three.
These results differ substantially, however, from the cumulative results that the state
department reported for the 1998-99 year, and they differ from the results that I calculated
for the entire testing program. As of June 2000, 89% of test-takers had passed the reading
section (up 19% from the first administration), 85% had passed the writing section (up
26%), and 79% had passed the subject exam (up 17%). Consequently, I estimate that
approximately 73% of all test-takers who have taken all three parts have passed the
MECT, an increase of more than 30% over the April 1998 results.72
A number of factors appear to have contributed to the enormous disparity between the
results of the first test and the current cumulative results. First, as with any new test, it is
common to find candidates earning comparatively low scores on the first few
administrations and higher scores on later administrations. However, Massachusetts surely
depressed scores more than usual because it committed such unusual and egregious errors
when it first administered these tests.
Initially, the state department informed test-takers that the first two administrations of the
MECT would not be used for certification decisions. Less than two weeks before the first
administration in April 1998, the state department reversed itself and announced that the
test would count. By the time test-takers learned that the MECT would count, no study
materials were available. The state had withdrawn the study guide because it did not
describe, among other items, an unusual dictation exercise that had been added to the test
at the last minute. Two members of the state board of education, John Silber and Edward
DeLattre, had prevailed upon the test contractor, National Evaluation Systems (NES), to
add this item.73

I have kept a running tally of the pass rates as each new set of results is released and posted on the state
department’s website. Readers may request a copy free of charge from me (
Jordana Hart, “From Madison, via Silber,” Boston Globe, 5 August 1998, pp. A-1, A-20.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Second, almost all the candidates (97%) who sat for the first administration of the MECT
took all three parts (reading, writing, and subject area) on the same day. Not surprisingly,
the percentage of candidates opting to take all three parts in a single day has dropped
precipitously, from 97% on the first administration, to 36% for the sixth administration, to
approximately 27% for the 10th administration.
Third, a relatively high percentage of test-takers have passed different parts of the MECT
after failing on their first attempt. Over the life of this testing program, 59% of repeat test-
takers have passed the reading exam, 44% have passed the writing exam, and 40% have
passed the subject exams. Indeed, my calculations indicate that repeat test-takers are two
to three times more likely to pass the MECT’s reading and writing exams than to pass
comparable exams that Educational Testing Service gives to preservice teachers.74
There is insufficient space to discuss other factors that might contribute to this disparity,
such as institutional test-preparation efforts and the availability of some study materials. It
is clear, though, that the difference between the April 1998 and the more recent
cumulative pass rates is enormous, more than 32%.
What Level of Skills Is Tested by MECT?
To many, this difference between pass rates may seem unimportant. After all, as one
editorial writer put it, “It was astounding enough that so many failed, but it was made
worse by how spectacularly they failed. Some of the tests were simpler than the high
school graduation exams teachers are supposed to prepare students to pass.”75
When Massachusetts officials reported the results of this exam, they described it as
remarkably easy, a test of basic skills and knowledge. How basic? The first and most
widely circulated estimate appeared in an Associated Press report that newspapers across
the country carried: “The department of education released a sample of the exam, which
board of education Chairman John Silber said seemed to be at about an eighth-grade
Other, less widely circulated estimates were higher, but not by much. Speaker of the
House Thomas Finneran called the MECT a ninth-grade exam: “I got chills up and down
my spine because it was described to me, quite accurately, as a test that a reasonably
educated ninth-grader could pass.”77 The highest published estimate appeared in John

The Educational Testing Service produced a report that included, among other statistics, the percentage of
test-takers who passed different sections of the Praxis exam after failing on their first attempt. (See “The Use
of Praxis Pass Rates to Evaluate Teacher Education Programs: An ETS Background Report,” Educational
Testing Service, May 1998, Princeton, N.J.) The estimates were that, during the 1996-97 program year,
2.0% of all test-takers who passed the reading and 3.0% of those who passed the writing sections of the
Praxis I Academic Skills Assessments were repeat test-takers. Using ETS’ methodology, I calculated the same
statistics for the MECT’s 1998-99 program year. This analysis indicated that 6.4% of all test-takers who
passed the reading exams and 5.9% who passed the writing exams were repeat test-takers.
“Shocking Failure,” Augusta Chronicle, 14 July 1998, p. A-4.
Jean MacMillan, “Massachusetts Grades Aspiring Teachers on a Curve,” Washington Post, 28 June 1998, p.
“Grading the Graders: Is Teacher Testing the Best Way to Improve Academic Achievement?,” The
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Public Broadcasting System, 15 September 1998.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Silber’s New York Times op-ed article, in which he described the MECT as “a test that a
bright 10th-grader could pass without difficulty.”78
However, a series of official materials, all produced before the summer of 1998, contradict
the preceding statements. In February 1997, when the state department first asked
contractors to submit bids for the MECT, it stated:
The level of communication and literacy skills targeted for PreK-12 students in all
grades and subject areas entails a correspondingly high level of competence on the
part of teachers, going well beyond basic skills. The test of communication and
literacy skills will assess the proficiency of candidates at a level normally required
by the junior year of college.

In December 1997, when Robert Antonucci, then commissioner of education, selected

NES as the test contractor, he told the state board that he needed to work out two issues
before signing a contract. The first issue was relatively minor, but the second was
The second issue, which will require a lot more work on our part—and I have
been in contact with the Chair [John Silber], who also has very serious concerns
about the quality of the test itself—is that the vendor ensure that the tests do focus
on the college level of the specific content being tested. It’s the strong belief that I
have, it’s the strong belief this Board has, when we sent out the RFP.

In January 1998, when the state department distributed “Questions and Answers,” a
document describing the MECT to prospective test-takers, it wrote:
What level of knowledge will be tested? The test of communication and literacy
skills will assess the proficiency of candidates at a level required for a bachelor’s
degree. Subject tests for specific certificates will assess proficiency and depth of
understanding of the subject required for a baccalaureate major.

Clearly, there is an enormous gulf between the way state officials described the MECT
before and after its first administration. Which description is accurate? Two independent
reports speak to this issue. The first report is a content analysis of teacher licensing
examinations commissioned by the Education Trust. The authors wrote that, based on
their inspection of sample questions, many of the questions on the Massachusetts tests
assessed college-level content. The authors said they were
impressed by the sample items for the Massachusetts literacy and communication
skills exam. . . . These questions, in the words of Dan Jones, were “of a higher
degree of complexity and expectations than any of the others we looked at. . . . In

John Silber, “Those Who Can’t Teach,” New York Times, 7 July 1998, p. A-15.
“Request for Responses Regarding Massachusetts Certification Tests of Communication/Literacy Skills
and Subject Matter Knowledge,” Massachusetts Department of Education, 24 February 1997, p. 2.
“Massachusetts Board of Education Meeting, December 15, 1997,” videotape of the board meeting.
“Massachusetts Teacher Tests: Questions and Answers,” Massachusetts Department of Education, January
1998, p. 5.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

contrast, . . . the majority of tests we examined were dominated by high school

level materials.

The authors also praised the complexity of sample items from a number of the MECT’s
subject exams, including the elementary exam, which they suggested tested knowledge
equivalent to “the general knowledge acquired in a four-year liberal arts degree
The Advanced Literacy Skills Study Group (ALSSG), composed of professors at the
University of Massachusetts, issued a report on the MECT’s literacy exams. The ALSSG
concluded that these exams, which ask candidates, among other things, to take a dictation
and to define both words and parts of speech, are neither complex nor basic but archaic.
They are archaic in that preservice teachers “are being tested in part for literacies that
belong to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are being assessed on their ability
to act as scribes, on their ability to recite memorized definitions of parts of speech or
vocabulary words out of context.”84 From this perspective, the MECT literacy tests are
challenging to the extent that they assess candidates on a narrow set of archaic “literacies
for which their education, rightly, has not prepared them.”85
Absent a more rigorous independent study of the MECT, one that would allow
investigators to study complete copies of these exams as well as to compare candidates’
performance on the MECT with their performance on other tests, it is impossible to say
what level of skills the MECT is testing. It is indisputable, though, that the state
department stated at the outset that it wanted tests that would assess college-level skills,
that the commissioner of education stated that he would not sign a contract without
assurances that the tests would assess college-level skills, and that official documents
informed test-takers that the MECT did indeed assess college-level skills.
When the national media assembled to hear Massachusetts policy makers report the results
of these tests, however, the same officials who had earlier insisted that the MECT test
college-level skills now stated that the MECT tested eighth- to 10th-grade skills. And
when the state department issued an updated version of “Questions and Answers” two
months later, it no longer discussed the level of skills assessed by the MECT.
If the exams that make up the MECT are valid and reliable, and if they assess the level of
skills that Massachusetts officials insisted that they test, then the public should disregard the
snapshot of teacher preparation that the media distributed three years ago and replace it
with a more accurate picture. In this revised picture, many more aspiring teachers
(approximately 32%) have passed a test that is more rigorous than state officials led them to
believe. Such a picture would indicate that teacher preparation in Massachusetts, while
perhaps not as good as it should be, is not as bad as state officials made it out to be.

Ruth Mitchell and Patte Barth, “How Teacher Licensing Tests Fall Short,” Thinking K-16, Spring 1999,
p. 7.
Ibid., p. 17
“Improving the Assessment of Communication and Literacy Skills for Prospective Teachers: Report on
the Massachusetts Educator Test of Communication and Literacy Skills,” Advanced Literacy Skills Study
Group, July 1999, p. 7. This report is available free of charge from Anne Herrington, Department of
English, Box 3-0515, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-0515.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

However, it is still not clear whether this more recent picture is accurate. Incredibly, even
though Massachusetts has now administered the MECT to more than 60,000 aspiring
educators over the last three years, there are still serious questions about the reliability and
validity of these tests.
Are the MECT Exams Reliable and Valid?
Even before the state released the results of the first administration of the MECT, teacher
educators raised questions about the validity and reliability of the exams because NES
disregarded national standards for testing and did not issue a technical report.86 Teacher
educators expressed even more concern once the results were released and they learned
that many skilled candidates had failed the exams. The most compelling case is that of
Nancy Schmeing. When she initially took the MECT in July 1998, she passed the physics
content test and the writing exam but failed the reading exam (by 11 points) with a score
of 59. This was puzzling because Schmeing had earned her Ph.D. from MIT, was a
Fulbright fellow, had published more than 20 articles, and currently translates complex
technical articles (from German to her native English) for Fortune 500 companies.
Somehow, though, the MECT initially determined that Schmeing could not read well
enough to teach in Massachusetts. When she took it again, she passed with a score of 93.
Alarmed by such anecdotal evidence and by the absence of a technical report, several
colleagues and I conducted a study of the psychometric qualities of the MECT.87 Our
analysis of a sample of scores from the April and July 1998 administrations indicated that
the reading and writing tests were unreliable and of doubtful validity. Specifically, we
concluded that the reading and writing tests 1) are unreliable measures as indicated by our
calculations of test-retest reliability; 2) contain almost two to three times the degree of
error as well-developed tests; 3) have high false-pass and false-failure rates, as indicated by
huge fluctuations in scores for those candidates retaking portions of the tests; and 4)
contain questionable content and are poorly designed, as indicated by the lack of
relationship between candidates’ reading and writing scores. We recommended that the
state immediately suspend using the MECT while independent experts audited these tests.
The authors of the ALSSG report also questioned the validity of the MECT’s literacy
exams, noting discrepancies between what these exams are supposed to test and what they
actually test. For example, they noted, “While the test objectives [for the writing test]
suggest application to a range of genres and purposes, the test items include only
expository and persuasive texts and samples addressed to teacher audiences.”88 They also
doubted whether the dictation exercise accurately assesses what it is supposed to test—
language mechanics: “Experts in language and literacy . . . point out that this exercise
actually calls for a very complex system of skills—many unrelated to knowledge of writing

American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and the National
Council on Measurement in Education, Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (Washington, D.C.:
American Psychological Association, 1985).
Walt Haney, Clarke Fowler, Anne Wheelock, Damian Bebell, and Nicole Malec, “Less Truth Than
Error? An Independent Study of the Massachusetts Teacher Tests,” Education Policy Analysis Archives, vol. 7,
1999, available at
“Improving the Assessment of Communication,” p. 10.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

mechanics—and thus is a peculiar and inefficient means of measuring that particular body
of knowledge.”89
NES issued a five-volume technical report in the summer of 1999—15 months after the
first administration of the MECT and after four test administrations.90 The company
wrote that the state department and NES took careful steps “to establish and verify the
validity of the tests in the program” and assured the public that it can have confidence in
this testing program. However, the data NES presents to support the preceding claims are
not persuasive.
First, the company neither responded to nor acknowledged the problems that my
colleagues and I had noted in our study. This is odd because NES could have seriously
challenged these findings, which were based on analyses of the scores of a sample of test-
takers, had it produced more acceptable findings based on analyses of the scores of the
entire population of test-takers.
Second, the company presented insufficient evidence to support the claim that the MECT
exams are valid. For example, NES could have correlated test-takers’ scores on the reading
and writing exams with their scores on comparable literacy exams, such as the SAT. A
high correlation on this kind of analysis, which psychometricians refer to as concurrent
validity, would have supported the NES claims. No such analysis was conducted,
Third, Larry Ludlow analyzed the NES technical report and uncovered statistics that
suggest that some of the content exams (e.g., special education and early childhood
education) contain test items that may be flawed or may have been scored incorrectly.91
The presence of such flaws in the NES certification tests in Alabama led a federal judge to
order the state to stop administering them, ruling that NES “violated the minimum
requirements for professional test development” when it developed Alabama’s tests.92
Commissioner Driscoll announced in July 1999 that he would ask the National Academy
of Sciences to nominate a panel of experts to review the MECT. Exactly one year later,
when the state department had still not produced such a review, the legislature passed
budget language requiring the department to hire independent experts to audit the
MECT. The governor vetoed this legislation, saying that the state department was “just
commencing” the review that Commissioner Driscoll had promised to undertake one year
before.93 When the department announced in March 2001 that it had finally hired
outside experts, however, it stated not that they would audit the current tests but that they

“Massachusetts Educator Certification Tests: Technical Report Summary,” Massachusetts Department of
Education, 27 July 1999, p. 8; available at The
entire five-volume technical report may be purchased from the state department for $340.
Larry H. Ludlow, “Teacher Test Accountability: From Alabama to Massachusetts,” Education Policy
Analysis Archives, vol. 9, 2001, available at
Richardson v. Lamar County Board of Education et al., 729 F. Supp. 806, 820-21 (M.D. Ala. 1989), aff’d 935
F. 2d 1240 (5th Cir.)
A. Paul Cellucci, Veto Items: Fiscal Year 2001 General Appropriations Act, Outside Sections (Boston:
Commonwealth of Massachusetts), Sec. 414, p. 16.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

would “advise the Commissioner on technical and implementation issues” of the next
generation of tests.94
What Have the MECT Exams Revealed?
Until independent experts conduct a full audit of the MECT, it is impossible to say
exactly what these tests reveal about the state of teacher preparation in Massachusetts or
anywhere else. However, the reaction to the MECT has revealed some important features
of American education that I discuss next, beginning with inadequate press coverage.
Inadequate press coverage. Media coverage of events surrounding the MECT has been
inadequate in a number of ways. Although the media reported some facts incorrectly,
more typically they simply failed either to separate facts from state officials’ interpretations
or failed to examine facts that officials had overlooked or ignored.
When the state released the results of the second round of testing in July 1998, first-time
test-takers’ pass rates increased sharply, rising from 59% to 78% on the writing exam and
from 51% to 70% on the communications and literacy exam. Many teacher educators
perceived these increases to be evidence that the first administration of the tests had
dramatically depressed test-takers’ scores. National media outlets, however, did not report
such perceptions. Instead, they reported state officials’ interpretations of this second round
of testing.
Why did first-time test-takers’ pass rates increase sharply? The Washington Post accepted
Commissioner Driscoll’s explanation that “the ‘extraordinary public attention’ paid to the
previous high failure rate may have led July candidates to take the test more seriously
while dissuading others, who could not pass. Their educational backgrounds may also have
differed.”95 In other words, the explanation for the marked increase in pass rates lay not
with the test but with the test-takers.
The national media also relied heavily, if not exclusively, on the interpretations of state
officials as to what it meant to fail these tests. When state officials showed reporters
samples of particularly weak answers, the Associated Press reported that these samples
“showed some test-takers, when trying to rewrite sentences, misspelled words a 9-year-old
could spell—even though the words were right in front of them. Some wrote at a fifth- or
sixth-grade level.”96 Ronald Hambleton wrote at the time, “I suspect that the work of
the very lowest performers was used to highlight poor writing skills; but it would be
wrong to generalize from this sample of work to the population of failing candidates.”97
Such admonitions were not noted in the media, which strongly implied that anyone who
failed the MECT was practically illiterate.
However, since a public official had stated that the MECT assessed eighth-grade skills,
reporters had reason to believe that anyone who failed these tests was barely literate. After

“Board in Brief,” Massachusetts Department of Education, 27 March 2001.
Pamela Ferdinand, “Nearly Half of Aspiring Teachers Fail Latest Massachusetts Test,” Washington Post, 13
August 1998, p. A-6.
MacMillan, p. A-10
Ronald Hambleton, “Politicians Fail, Not the Teachers,” Education Connection, Winter 1999, p. 19.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

all, logic dictates that a person who fails an eighth-grade test must be operating on a sixth-
or seventh-grade level.
On the other hand, when some media outlets reported that the Education Trust had
praised the MECT exams for their complexity, they failed to mention that such praise
contradicted their previous reporting. Specifically, both the Boston Globe and the New York
Times repeatedly described the MECT exams as tests of “basic skills” during the summer
of 1998. One year later, the New York Times reported that “the Education Trust praised
Massachusetts for its rigorous teacher exam.”98 And the Boston Globe reported at the same
time that “the panel of educators who reviewed the tests nationwide were impressed by
the rigor and complexity of the Massachusetts test.”99
It is curious to note that the Education Trust also has spoken on both sides of this issue.
Here is how one reporter wrote about his conversation with Amy Wilkins, one of the
Trust’s senior associates: “The Massachusetts test wasn’t any harder than other teacher
certification tests, she said. ‘As far as I can tell, a bright ninth- or 10th-grader could pass
that test,’ said Wilkins.”100 Even more curious, this conversation occurred on the same
day that the Education Trust issued a report that stated, “Massachusetts has devised new
and much more rigorous [certification] examinations, especially in the content areas.”101
The myth of immaculate test construction. One factor that may have contributed to the media’s
apparent reluctance to go beyond the sound bite on this story is the apparently widespread
belief that tests, even brand-new tests, invariably tell the truth. For example, Sen. John
Kerry (D-Mass.) wrote in an op-ed article that “the scores on those tests don’t lie.”102
The belief that tests are created perfect is also evident in the outrage that journalists and
commentators expressed when test-takers or professors suggested that the high failure rate
might indicate a problem with the tests. Steve Forbes fumed on his magazine’s editorial
page: “After these students in Massachusetts scored so poorly on their certification test,
one would-be teacher made the absurd comment that there must obviously be something
wrong with the test—and not with those taking it.”103 And the editorial writers for the
Boston Globe scolded the deans of 10 schools of education for asking that NES provide a
“plan for conducting validity and reliability studies.” The Globe stated that “rather than
concentrating on minor testing flaws, the deans should identify and analyze major
weaknesses in their own instructional programs.”104
The most intriguing expression of belief in the inerrancy of the tests is found in the
Education Trust’s report on certification exams. The authors wrote:

Kate Zernike, “Union Is Urging a National Test for New Teachers,” New York Times, 14 April 2000, p.
Beth Daley, Doreen Vigue, and Kate Zernike, “Survey Says Massachusetts Test Is Best in US,” Boston
Globe, 22 June 1999, p. B-2.
Whitmire, op. cit.
Kati Haycock, “Good Teaching Matters . . . A Lot,” Thinking K-16, Summer 1998, p. 11.
John Kerry, “Board of Ed Errs on Teacher Testing,” Boston Herald, 26 June 1998, p. 31.
Steve Forbes, “The Alarming News,” Forbes Magazine, 21 September 1998, p. 32.
“A Test That Makes the Grade,” Boston Globe, 7 October 1998, p. A-24.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

With public support and political will, policy makers and educators can loosen the
stranglehold that litigation and psychometrics have on developing licensing exams.
They can make them into instruments that signify high professional standards and
tests that teachers will be proud to pass. (Emphasis added.)

The authors do not indicate, however, how it is possible to give birth to excellent tests
without psychometrics.
The best and brightest are born, not made. When Massachusetts released the results of the
MECT in the summer of 1998, numerous commentators solemnly urged the country to
locate and recruit to teaching the “best and the brightest.” The sensible desire to attract
skilled people into the teaching profession was often marred, however, by the disturbing
number of writers whose language implied that the best and the brightest are born, not
made. A college president lamented, “As long as other fields offer financial rewards in
excess of teaching, the best brains will continue to be lost.”106 A Boston Globe reporter
wrote that the relatively high numbers of students enrolled in remedial programs in the
state’s public colleges and universities “reflect poorly [on these institutions] for accepting
students who are not cut out to do college work.”107 Editorial writers at the Boston Herald
noted that the purpose of the MECT was not to identify who would be a good teacher
but “to find out who lacks the raw material to be a good teacher.”108 And John Silber
stated that the major problem with teacher preparation is that students with “superior
native intelligence” usually attend law schools and medical schools but rarely attend
schools of education.109
This is not to say that all the preceding writers actually believe, as Silber apparently does,
that failure to pass a preservice teacher test should be attributed to biological inadequacy as
opposed to inadequate instruction or lack of individual effort. It is to say, though, that the
notion that intelligence is inborn is deeply embedded in our culture and our language.
Even people who would presumably object to explicit expressions of this idea often accept
it implicitly. Such language contradicts the most laudable tenet of education reform—the
notion that all people can learn.
It is perversely fitting, therefore, that Speaker Finneran called people who failed the
MECT “idiots,” because this term is more than a simple insult. Rather, it is a technical
term with a specific meaning in our country’s long and often ignoble tradition of
intelligence testing. In the early years of this tradition, researchers contended that
individuals are divided into “three classes according to their intelligence: feeble-minded
(I.Q. below 70), normal (I.Q. 70 to 130), and gifted (I.Q. above 130).”110 Residing
among the feeble-minded are morons (I.Q. 50 to 70), imbeciles (I.Q. 20 to 50), and—last
and clearly least—idiots (I.Q. below 20).

Mitchell and Barth, p. 16.
Richard Freeland, “Answering a Wake-up Call at Northeastern,” Boston Globe, 27 July 1998, p. A-11.
Kate Zernike, “Report Finds a Third of Students at State Schools Need Basics,” Boston Globe, 11
November 1998, p. B-5.
“Why Our Teachers Should Be Tested,” Boston Herald, 7 December 1998, p. 26.
I heard Silber make these comments during a special public meeting held at the Massachusetts Department
of Education, Malden, that preceded the state board’s regular meeting on 15 May 1998.
Walter C. Varnum, Psychology in Everyday Life, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1942), p. 271.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Improving Teacher Preparation

Although I have argued that the Massachusetts teacher tests have little to say about teacher
preparation and much to say about public perceptions of American education, I do not
wish to imply that teacher preparation is without problems or that policy makers should
not work to address these problems. Teacher preparation clearly belongs at the top of the
national agenda, for research clearly indicates that teacher expertise is a critical factor in
student achievement.111 It can and should be improved, but our public officials need to
understand the limits of what can be accomplished by reforming schools of education. As
Jeremiah Murphy wrote, “Singling out schools of education as the chief cause of our
educational woes oversimplifies the problem. Trying to revitalize our schools just by fixing
schools of education is like trying to repair a wornout pair of shoes by replacing the
Thus the question is not whether current efforts to improve schools of education will
resolve our educational ills—they won’t. Rather, the question is whether the mechanisms
that policy makers are using to improve schools of education—more certification tests,
higher cut scores, and severe penalties for institutions that fail to meet specific pass rates—
will deliver the increased accountability and better teachers that policy makers have
My experience in Massachusetts indicates that this test-and-punish approach will not
deliver on either promise. It will not deliver accountability, because many programs will
undoubtedly react the same way that state colleges in Massachusetts have responded to the
state’s threat to decertify programs that do not achieve specific pass rates on certification
exams. All of Massachusetts’ state colleges now require their students to take and pass all
certification tests (i.e., the literacy and the subject tests) before entering student teaching.
Consequently, the state colleges will soon be able to achieve 100% pass rates for all
program completers on all required examinations.
For those of us who teach in the state colleges, this is a great solution. While we get a
100% pass rate, our (unclaimed) students pay the price for not passing tests on material that
we may not have covered in our classes. We have effectively shifted the burden of
program accountability from our own backs to the backs of the students.
Does it really matter, though, whether this approach allows institutions to avoid
accountability, as long as it bears the purported fruits of accountability (i.e., better
teachers)? Probably not to pragmatically minded policy makers. However, much research
on the impact of certification testing indicates that this approach will not deliver better
teachers.113 While scores on paper-and-pencil tests are not irrelevant to teaching quality,

Linda Darling-Hammond, “Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: A Review of State Policy
Evidence,” Education Policy Analysis Archives, vol. 8, 2000; available at
Jeremiah Murphy, “Debate on Schools Heads Down the Wrong Road,” Boston Globe, 25 July 1998, p.
Walter Haney, George Madaus, and Amelia Kreitzer, “Charms Talismanic: Testing Teachers for the
Improvement of American Education,” Review of Research in Education, vol. 14, 1987, pp. 169-238; and
George Madaus and Diana Pullin, “Teacher Certification Tests: What Do They Tell Us?,” Phi Delta
Kappan, September 1987, pp. 31-38.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

they do not correlate well enough with teacher quality to serve as the chief—much less
the only—tool for improving teacher quality.
Moreover, other research indicates that some certification tests fail to capture what some
writers have identified as one of the few (marginally effective) predictors of classroom
effectiveness—verbal ability.114 Brian Cobb and his colleagues correlated preservice
teachers’ scores on Colorado’s basic skills tests of reading and writing (since discontinued)
with their scores on the ACT, the SAT, and the Graduate Records Examination. These
researchers write that such analyses should produce “correlations in the .75 to .80 range
for solid evidence of concurrent validity.”115 They found, however, that the basic skills
reading tests did not achieve correlations of .50 with any of the other tests, “suggesting
little concurrent validity with those tests.” Similarly, they found that Colorado’s writing
test correlated poorly with every one of the other tests. Such results strongly suggest that
the Colorado tests, which were produced by NES, the same company that produced the
MECT, were not accurately measuring literacy.
Such research will not deter policy makers from claiming, however, that they have
improved teacher preparation when schools of education begin to report higher pass rates
on state certification tests. Indeed, this is already happening in Massachusetts. When the
state department announced the results of the April 2000 administration of the MECT,
Commissioner Driscoll stated:
I continue to be encouraged by the steady improvement of scores, and I am
delighted by the increasing numbers of test-takers. This suggests to me that a
greater number of qualified candidates are seeking to enter teaching careers. Also
notable is the improvement in the pass rate for writing, which I believe reflects
the improved preparation of candidates that is taking place in our institutions of
higher education.

Still, it is hard to believe that these higher pass rates are the result of the entry of more
qualified candidates into the profession or of improved institutional preparation. Why?
Because the candidates achieving these pass rates were already juniors and seniors when
the testing flap first began in April 1998. Although most teacher preparation programs
now offer test-preparation workshops, it is highly unlikely that any institutions imposed
any new course requirements on students who were so far along in their programs.
Consequently, the higher pass rates that Driscoll noted are measures not of how much
programs have “improved” but of how much the state depressed scores—on whatever it is
that the tests measure—when it first administered the MECT exams three years ago.
Nevertheless, the day is coming when state officials will proclaim, more formally and
more loudly, that they have used certification tests and institutional pass rates to reform
and improve schools of education. When they do so, the national media will return to
Massachusetts to report the state’s tale about the power of tests and accountability to

The Teachers We Need and How to Get More of Them: A Manifesto (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham
Foundation, 2000).
R. Brian Cobb et al., “An Examination of Colorado’s Teacher Licensure Testing,” Journal of Educational
Research, January/February 1999, p. 167.
“Record Number of Candidates Take and Pass April Massachusetts Educator Certification Tests,” news
release, Massachusetts Department of Education, 12 May 2000, p. 1.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

improve teacher quality. What’s worrisome, though, is that many teacher educators will
be tempted to play along with this tale too. After all, we have spent the last three years cast
in the role of Idle Fritz, a disobedient and stupid child who appeared in a book of stories
that my mother read when she was a girl. The story begins thus: “Fritz was an idle boy,
indeed; he would not learn to write or read.”117 His parents, “finding they could bear no
more . . . whipped and drove him from their door”—out into the cold, where a wolf ate
Of course, this is a cautionary tale, a story about bad things that deservedly happen to bad
people. State officials are undoubtedly eager to have some institutions disappear, just as
Idle Fritz did, so that they may serve as a caution to others. However, the state will also be
looking to cast some institutional actors in the newly developed and far more enviable role
of Reformed Fritz, a lad who, thanks almost entirely to his wise elders’ high expectations,
stern reprimands, and severe sanctions, has turned his life around.
This is a role that very few teacher educators will disavow. We want to claim that we put
our shoulders to the wheel, our noses to the grindstone, and our students to the test. This
is a great opportunity, a chance to act out a tale of psychometric redemption, written for
the golden age of testing.
We will not mention, of course, that we are now claiming to be cured of ailments that we
previously denied we had. Nor will we mention that we have achieved higher pass rates
by disclaiming our students and abandoning our missions. And we certainly won’t
mention that these “improved” pass rates will not result in better instruction in the
schools. Instead, we will preserve this new fiction about teacher preparation in the hope
that it will restore some of the respect we lost when Massachusetts officials led the nation
to believe the older fiction that nearly 60% of the state’s prospective teachers had not
acquired eighth- to 10th-grade skills.

Heinrich Hoffman, Slovenly Peter; or, Cheerful Stories and Funny Pictures for Good Little Folk (Philadelphia:
Porter and Coates, 1873).

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

And here are the results on which Fowler was reporting, compared with the results ten years later.

Exhibit #5: Massachusetts Test for Educational Licensure: 1998 and 2008 test
Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure™
Number of Examinees and
Percent of Examinees Passing Each Test
Test Administration: April 4, 1998

Test Name N % Passing

Communication and Literacy Skills:
Reading 1794 71
Writing 1808 59

Both 1794 51
Early Childhood 270 65
Elementary 772 60
Middle School 20 75
Social Studies 59 56
History 81 51
English 116 59
Reading 14 50
Mathematics 65 38
General Science 13 77
Physics 4 100
Chemistry 16 69
Biology 38 61
Earth Science 5 60
Latin 5 40
Music 41 59
Visual Art 36 61
Business 13 69
Home Economics 1 100
Health Education 20 70
Physical Education 61 82
English as a Second Language 14 57
Special Needs 131 77


Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

French 7 57
German -
Spanish 25 48
Chinese 1 100
Italian -
Russian -
Portuguese -
Technology Education 2 0

All Subject Tests 1830 62

Communication and Literacy Skills and Subject Test 1776 41

• Caution should be used in interpreting data based on small numbers of test takers.
• The test takers whose data are presented in this table may not reflect the same performance as that
of future test takers.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL)

Number of Examinees and Percent of Examinees Passing Each Test by Examinee
Test Administration: July 19, 2008

Test Name First-Time Test Takers Test Retakers

N % Passing N % Passing
Communication and Literacy Skills:
Reading 1,677 82.7 401 54.6
Writing 1,567 70.3 756 43.5
Both Subtests 1,543 66.0 132 18.2
Vocational Technical Literacy Skills:
Reading 32 87.5 5 60.0
Writing 33 75.8 13 38.5
Both Subtests 28 78.6 1 0.0
Subject Tests:
Early Childhood 215 47.0 143 28.7
Elementary 918 79.8 319 47.3
History 213 77.5 76 30.3
English 281 87.2 70 44.3
Reading Specialist 91 62.6 37 29.7
Mathematics 151 62.9 71 43.7
General Science 80 80.0 16 37.5
Physics 32 43.8 26 38.5
Chemistry 44 47.7 21 38.1
Biology 98 58.2 52 30.8
Earth Science 16 37.5 12 0.0
Latin and Classical Humanities 14 21.4 5 20.0
Music 54 88.9 5 80.0
Visual Art 84 72.6 23 47.8
Business 20 45.0 6 66.7
Health Education 48 56.3 11 27.3
Physical Education 61 50.8 38 36.8
French -- -- -- --
German -- -- -- --

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Spanish 77 61.0 39 46.2

Chinese -- -- -- --
Italian -- -- -- --
Russian -- -- -- --
Portuguese -- -- -- --
Technology Education 16 62.5 1 100.0
Speech -- -- 1 0.0
Theater 14 28.6 7 71.4
Dance 2 0.0 2 0.0
Middle School Mathematics 155 45.2 74 29.7
Political Science/Philosophy 14 50.0 8 25.0
Middle School Humanities 28 57.1 13 15.4
Middle School Math/Science 43 37.2 16 25.0
Academically Advanced 1 100.0 -- --
Elementary Mathematics 59 59.3 13 30.8
English as a Second Language 111 64.0 45 44.4
Adult Basic Education 3 66.7 -- --
Foundations of Reading 815 62.8 631 38.0

All Subject Tests 3,740 67.3 1,784 38.4

Communication & Literacy Skills and Subject Test 521 67.9 17 35.3

Total Number of Test Takers: 7,159

Number (Percent) of First-Time Test Takers: 4,460 (62.3)
Number (Percent) of Test Retakers: 2,699 (37.7)

• First-Time Test Takers = candidates who took the test for the first time on the test date indicated.
• Test Retakers = candidates who retook the test they took on a previous test date.
• Caution should be used in interpreting data based on small numbers of test takers.
• The test takers whose data are presented in this table may not reflect the same performance as that
of future test takers

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Suggested Study Group Questions:

1. Thinking back on your experience of more effective and less effective teachers
with whom you have studied, what generalizations can you draw about good
teaching? Taking these generalizations as your standard, how would you construct
an assessment to measure the quality of teacher performance against that standard?

2. Thinking about yourself (hypothetically or actually) as a prospective teacher, and

bearing in mind how some of your friends and associates will be evaluated as
prospective lawyers, doctors, architects or engineers, how would you prefer to
have your competency evaluated for licensure?

3. What is meant by “performance-based licensing standards”? What is the


4. While acknowledging the importance of subject area assessments, Linda Darling-

Hammond stresses the importance of evaluating new teachers’ command of
pedagogy, broadly construed. While acknowledging the importance of assessing
pedagogy, Kati Haycock and her colleagues at The Education Trust stress the
importance of evaluating new teachers’ command of their subject area. Which
argument do you find the more persuasive, and hence which area should take
precedence in the reform of teacher licensure?

5. Should licensed teachers be reassessed during the course of their career in the
classroom? If so, why, when, how, and by whom should they be reassessed, and
what should be the consequences of the reassessment?

6. National Board Certification currently operates as a program for experienced

teachers, not beginning teachers. What are the relative merits of certification of
beginning teachers at the state or the national level? Which do you favor, and

Appendix #1: Last year’s clarifying questions

1. Linda Darling-Hammond (OMG we love her!) and pretty much everyone else in this
casebook argues for more rigorous standards for teacher certification. We agree that the
standards could use a boost. We just don’t see how this helps deal with the teacher
shortage. Does our darling Darling-Hammond have any thoughts on how to recruit or
retain more teachers to deal with this shortage? (2) Darling Linda has written elsewhere that it
is possible to have one’s cake and eat it too. Addressing the question of teacher shortages, she cites
Michale Sedlak and Steven Schlossman, who say, “Contrary to what many modern-day educators
tend to assume, teacher shortages have been commonplace through the twentieth century. Not only
has the raising of standards not exacerbated teacher shortages, it may even—at least where
accompanied by significant increases in teachers’ salaries—have helped to alleviate them (and, at the

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

same time, enhanced popular respect for teaching as a profession). She points out that shortages of
teachers vary by region, by grade level, and by discipline. She suggests targeting recruitment and pay
to the specific fields (math, science and special education, for example) in which shortages exist. She
indicates that some candidates are discouraged by cumbersome and bureaucratic hiring procedures (New
York City being notorious for these). She also points out that retention is as important as
recruitment, since close to 30% of new teachers leave the field after less than five years.
2. The first article makes big bones of teachers with strong pedagogical training
performing better in classrooms. Is there any data to prove this relationship is causative
rather than correlative? Or might it be that prospective teachers more committed to the
field seek more rigorous training and go on to outperform their less-educated peers by
virtue of this commitment rather than any skills that accrue in training. (1) Linda Darling-
Hammond refers to “teacher effectiveness” and “student outcomes” being correlated with
a number of factors. How is she measuring student achievement? Is it anything other than
test scores? (3) In the abstract of another study written in the same year as A License to Teach,
Darling-Hammond says, “Quantitative analyses indicate that measures of teacher preparation and
certification are by far the strongest correlates of student achievement in reading and mathematics, both
before and after controlling for student poverty and language status.” It is clear that she is relying
primarily on data derived from student performance on state standardized tests.

3. Linda D-H writes that, “Much research on individualized instruction...has failed to find
that it produces significant learning gains” (pg. 20-21). This seems strange to us, especially
because she only cites one source for it. Is there, in fact, much research to support this
claim? What is meant by “individualized instruction” here? Has the finding that it doesn’t
help held up in the 22 years since the source she cites was published? (3) A current
buzzword in K-12 classrooms is “differentiated instruction”—the idea that the teacher must know
her students’ needs and learning styles and “differentiate” her teaching to respond to those needs and
styles. “Individualized instruction” is one form (but by no means the only form) of differentiation.121
Writing in 1993, Darling-Hammond herself advocates differentiation: “This more complex
approach to teaching requires that teachers combine deep knowledge of subject matter and a wide
repertoire of teaching strategies with intimate knowledge of students’ growth, experience, and
development.[3] Furthermore, if schools are to be responsive to the different needs and talents of
diverse learners, they must be organized to allow for variability rather than to assume uniformity.
Teachers must diversify their practice so that they can engage each of their students in whatever ways
are necessary to encourage learning.”

4. In contrast to Linda D-H, who cites every three words and most of her commas, Katie
Haycock has few citations, even in the parts of her report that aren’t direct analyses of
teacher licensing tools. Is there much research to back up her assertions about the
M. Sedlak and S. Schlossman, Who will teach? (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1986), cited in
Linda Darling-Hammond, Solving the Dilemmas of Teacher Supply, Demand, and Standards: How We Can
Ensure a Competent, Caring, and Qualified Teacher for Every Child (New York: National Commission on
Teaching and America’s Future, 2000) p. 5
Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: A Review of State Policy Evidence (Seattle: University of
Washington Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, 1999)
See, for example, John M. Jenkins and James W. Keefe, “Strategies for Personalizing Instruction: A
Typology for Improving Teaching and Learning,” NAAS Bulletin 85:72, 2001.
Linda Darling-Hammond, “Reframing the school reform agenda; developing capacity for school
transformation,” Phi Delta Kappan 74:10 (1993)

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

importance of teacher content knowledge and the inadequacy of current methods to

ensure that knowledge? (3) A search in Google Scholar under “subject-matter knowledge” and
“content knowledge” reveals a fairly extensive literature on the subject. It appears from the list of
articles that much of the work deals with math and science. Two examples are Gaea Leinhardt and
Donald A. Smith, “Expertise in Mathematics Instruction Subject Matter Knowledge,” Journal of
Educational Psychology 77:3 (1985) and Deborah C. Smith and Daniel C. Neale, “The
Construction of subject matter knowledge in primary science teaching,” Teaching and Teacher
Education 5:1 (1989). Both of these articles support Haycock’s views on the importance of teacher
content knowledge.

5. Have there been any studies that compare the relative benefits of small class size vs.
teacher quality? For example, would it be better to have two highly qualified teachers
leading classes of thirty students each, or three less qualified teachers overseeing classes of
twenty students each? Following is one example of such studies. The question of the influence of
class size on student performance is one of the most contentious in education research and one can find
studies to support positions across the spectrum from no correlation to direct correlation.

6. Is there any information about whether higher paid teachers (non-merit pay) have
higher student performance? The chart reproduced above suggests that there is a correlation
between higher teacher salaries and higher student performance.
7. Are there any scholars of education who don’t hate Teach for America? (2) Yes.
Among them are Paul Decker, Daniel P. Mayer and Steven Glazerman of Mathematica Policy
Research, Inc. In their study, “The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a
National Evaluation,” they conclude, “From the perspective of a community or a school faced with
the opportunity to hire TFA teachers, our findings suggest that TFA offers an appealing pool of
candidates. First, the positive impacts on math scores[the average TFA class student increased in
th th
rank from the 14 to the 17 percentile over the course of a school year] suggest that by hiring TFA
teachers, a school can expect to increase the average math achievement of its students (without lowering
their reading achievement). Second, the consistent pattern of positive or zero impacts on test scores
across grades, regions, and student subgroups suggests that there is little risk that hiring TFA teachers
will reduce achievement, either for the average student or for most subgroups of students. Finally, since
TFA teachers are paid the same as other teachers, the schools pay no direct costs for the achievement

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

increase and school districts typically contribute only $1,500 per corps member to offset recruiting
costs. This contrasts with other interventions that have been shown to increase achievement, such as
class size reduction, but that can entail substantial direct costs.” See also the study conducted by
Macke Raymond and Stephen Fletcher of TFA participants in Houston, Texas cited in fn 37 in the

8. Has there been any talk of expanding the national board certification program to reach
more than 1.1 percent of teachers, perhaps by introducing gradations of certification that
would open the initiative to those without 400 hours and 2,500 bucks? It seems that the
program’s stated goal of professional development might be better achieved if it could
reach out to (and help train) a wider swath of professionals. (1) There are no plans of which I
am aware to expand National Board Certification. There are in place a number of scholarship
opportunities for teachers interested in pursuing NBC, some supported at the district level, some at
the state level.

9. Seriously, 400 hours? (1) I have checked with a teacher I know in Dutchess County, New
York, who has just received her certification. She verifies that she did, in fact, spend about that
amount of time in the process, most of it producing her portfolio.

10. What percentage of teachers who apply for National Board certification actually get it?
(3) “The first-time pass rate was 48% during [the period 1999-2002], according to ETS and
NBPTS officials. It is important to distinguish between the first-time pass rate and individuals’
overall pass rate: individuals’ overall pass rate will be higher than the first-time pass rate, since
individuals who are not initially successful in obtaining certification may reapply to NBPTS in later

11. How do Massachusetts’ (many) charter schools evaluate their teachers? Is there a
typical way this is done in charter schools nationwide? (3) I doubt that there is much
commonality in teacher evaluation across Massachusetts charter schools except for those that are part of
an EMO such as Edison or Green Dot. The one Massachusetts charter with which I am familiar,
the Francis Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, described its teacher evaluation system thus in
its most recent accreditation self-study: “The primary responsibility of supervision of the professional
staff at Parker is conducted through some of the members of the school’s leadership team. Domain
leaders [department heads] in both Arts and Humanities and in Math, Science and Technology
evaluate the instructors formally according to the criteria that are outlined in a newly developed teacher
evaluation document. Teachers are also evaluated informally through several means. In addition to
formal observations, domain leaders often conduct “walk throughs” in which they view an instructor’s
classroom for a few minutes. Instructors have stated that another important source of information about
their instructional practices comes from their peers through activities such as CFGs [Critical Friends
Groups]. Teaching partners provide instructors with immediate feedback about what is and is no t
working for students in a lesson. Adjustments are quickly made based on the observations of these

(Madison, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty, 2004) Available at
Dan Goldhaber and Emily Anthony, Can Teacher Quality Be Effectively Assessed? National
Board Certification As A Signal Of Effective Teaching, The Review of Economics and Statistics, 89:1 (February
2007) Available at

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

peers. In addition, teachers within the same domains are encouraged to observe and learn from one
another so that they may improve the overall quality of student learning.”125

12. On page 70, the Teaching Commission reports that “teachers with alternative
certifications are more likely than traditionally certified be members of
minority groups.” But on page 27, Linda D-H writes that, “Ironically, minority candidates
are those least likely to enter teaching through these backdoor routes.” Has something
changed in between the two reports, or is somebody wrong, or are they talking about
different things? (3) I think they’re talking about two different things. Darling-Hammond is
speaking about “emergency, provisional, temporary, and alternative certificates” designed to fill gaps
in the teaching force. The Teaching Commission is talking about alternative certification programs
like TFA and the New York Teaching Fellows. Note that the source cited by the Teaching
Commission is a study confined to New Jersey.

13. Do any studies compare alternate accreditation programs against each other? One that
I was able to locate compares New York City teachers entering the system with regular accreditation to
those entering through the New York City Teaching Fellows program, Teach for America, and other
alternative accreditation programs. The authors describe their study as follows: “ We use six years of
data on student test performance to evaluate the effectiveness of certified, uncertified, and alternatively
certified teachers in the New York City public schools. On average, the certification status of a teacher
has at most small impacts on student test performance. However, among those with the same
certification status, there are large and persistent differences in teacher effectiveness. This evidence
suggests that classroom performance during the first two years, rather than certification status, is a
more reliable indicator of a teacher’s future effectiveness.” They conclude that NYCT teachers are
somewhat more capable than TFA teachers, but attribute the difference to the greater experience and
maturity of NYCT candidates.

Appendix #2: Teacher compensation

Jennifer Park, “ERS Releases Nationally Representative K-12 Salary Data; Pay Varies by
Size of District, Region, Amount of Per-Pupil Spending, Survey Finds, Education Week,
April 13, 2005

The Educational Research Service has collected nationally representative data on the
salaries and wages of 23 professional and 10 support positions in precollegiate education
for the current school year.

The Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit organization has been collecting salary data for more
than 30 years through its annual survey, but it just started to weight the data to represent
national figures this year.
The data for 2004-05 show significant variations in pay across districts of different sizes,
locations, and amounts of per-pupil spending. The survey provides interesting findings on

Available at

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

superintendents’ salaries based on race, gender, and the number of years they have been in
their current positions.
A clear relationship between the size of a school district and the salaries its employees earn
emerges from the data, but that link holds only for higher-paid jobs, such as
superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal, and district-
level director.
Salaries for superintendents who are leading districts with 25,000 or more students are
about 80 percent higher than those for superintendents in districts with fewer than 2,500
students. High school principals in the largest districts make 23 percent more than their
peers in smaller districts.
But no such relationship appears for lower-paying positions, such as assistant principal,
teacher, counselor, librarian, or nurse. In fact, the average teacher or assistant principal in a
district with an enrollment of between 2,500 and 25,000 students is actually paid more
than those in districts with 25,000 or more students, according to the ERS data.
The geographic location of a school district also plays a role in pay variations across the
field. Salaries are far higher in the Mideast and Far West than in the Plains and Southwest,
the survey shows. In addition, education personnel working in rural communities are paid
much less than their counterparts in urban and suburban school districts.
For example, teachers in rural districts are paid 27 percent less than their suburban
counterparts, and 20 percent less than those in large urban districts.
Data provided by ERS on superintendents’ salaries also shines a light on pay differences
based on the background of school district leaders. Superintendents get a large boost in
pay when they stay in the same district for more than seven years, the data suggest.
Race, Gender Differences

Also, male superintendents make almost $3,000 more per year than their female
counterparts. Minority female superintendents earn the most of all superintendents,
however, making almost $20,000 more a year than their white female counterparts, and
almost $15,000 more than both white and minority male superintendents.

Since ERS has weighted its data only for the 2004-05 school year, unweighted data must
be used to analyze trends over time. According to the districts surveyed, salaries of
superintendents, high school principals, and teachers fell this school year when adjusted for

Superintendents’ pay dropped just a fraction of a percent, but high school principals and
teachers each saw about a 2 percent drop in real dollars.
Teachers are also getting the short end of the stick when it comes to salary increases over
the past decade. Between the 1994-95 and 2004-05 school years, teachers’ salaries have
dropped 3.4 percent when adjusted for inflation, while high school principals and
superintendents have seen gains over that period of 2.4 percent and 12 percent,
respectively, according to the research service.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

ERS researchers speculate that some of the decline in teacher salaries is a result of new
teachers entering the teaching force and retirements from the high end.
Also, the gap between the salaries of teachers and those of education professionals in
higher-paid positions—principals and superintendents—has steadily widened over the past

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

Salaries by Expenditure
Superintendents, high school $110,879
principals, and teachers in the highest- Superintendents $103,164
spending districts make about 30 percent $105,356
more than their counterparts in the $124,238

lowest-spending districts.
High school
Per-pupil expenditures: $79,365
Less than $6,000 $92,399

$6,000 to $6,999

$7,000 to $7,999 $38,422

$8,000 to $8,999 Teachers $42,265
$9,000 or more

$0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140

Average salary (thousands of dollars)

SOURCE: Educational Research Service, National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools, 2004-05

Salaries and Wages Salaries paid

In Public Schools Mean average Mean number Percent change
daily rate of days in in average salary
(2004-05) work year from 2003-04
Low3 Average High3 (2004-05) to 2004-054

Superintendents (contract salary) $53,000 $111,189 $295,000 $465.31 241 2.5%

Deputy/associate superintendents 51,287 104,713 193,581 440.29 239 2.1
Assistant superintendents 50,000 98,102 170,635 415.48 237 2.4
Directors, managers, coordinators, and supervisors for:
Finance and business 25,300 76,878 195,000 320.23 240 1.7
Instructional services Public 33,210 80,323 175,100 342.97 235 4.8
relations/information Staff- 27,624 69,366 161,071 294.79 235 0.3
personnel services 25,000 78,663 179,542 329.98 240 0.7
Technology 25,147 66,559 195,700 286.13 233 0.2
Other areas 21,000 66,722 235,000 282.04 234 -0.8
Subject-area supervisors 25,747 67,640 128,904 298.60 225 2.4
Other administrative staff 25,336 61,643 228,375 271.69 228 1.4
Elementary school 33,349 74,062 129,830 330.40 223 1.3
Junior high/middle school 40,960 78,160 127,096 346.51 227 1.8
Senior high 37,652 82,225 139,074 355.18 231 0.9
Assistant principals:
Elementary school 33,070 63,398 105,345 295.43 215 1.5
Junior high/middle school 32,480 66,319 109,967 305.67 218 1.9
Senior high school 34,399 68,945 129,030 313.44 220 1.3
Teachers 15,143 45,448 123,444 245.09 186 0.5
Counselors 19,222 51,046 123,444 263.03 195 0.3
Librarians 19,018 50,125 109,918 266.55 189 0.6
School nurses 11,721 37,450 91,709 200.98 187 0.8
Other professional staff 16,500 51,694 113,656 268.18 195 -0.3
Central office:
Secretaries 9,413 32,738 90,696 132.31 243 2.7
Accounting/payroll clerks 10,200 34,491 75,720 137.68 245 1.8
Typists/data-entry clerks 7,548 25,370 78,018 143.40 229 3.5
School-building level:
Secretaries 7,706 24,109 60,813 107.76 216 1.6
Library clerks 5,648 17,559 43,826 91.32 193 0.1
Teacher aides:
Instructional1 5.15/hr. 11.14/hr. 33.35/hr. — — 1.2
Noninstructional1 5.15 10.88 27.00 — — 1.4
Custodians (not engineers)1 5.15 12.48 41.40 — — 1.1
Cafeteria workers (not supervisors)1 5.15 10.09 26.76 — — 1.5
School bus drivers1, 2 7.76 14.39 48.26 — — 2.8

SOURCE: Educational Research Service, National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools, 2004-05 2
Hourly rates for school bus drivers are sometimes estimated, because some bus drivers are paid per trip rather than per hour.
NOTE: A dash (—) indicates that data are not available. 3
These figures represent the lowest and highest salaries reported.
Earnings in these categories are presented as hourly wages paid. 4
These figures are based on unweighted salary data.

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

IN THE NEWS APRIL 13, 2005 ■


About This Project

Annual Salaries
The data in this story and its table and charts are
based on the study “Salaries and Wages Paid
Professional and Support Personnel in Public
Schools, 2004-05,” which reported the results of Superintendents $111,189
a survey conducted annually by Educational
Research Service, an Arlington, Va.-based Assistant superintendents
nonprofit organization that conducts research on
K-12 education.
High school principals 82,225
ERS uses a sample of school systems from
across the nation, divided into four groups by High school assistant principals
size of enrollment. This year’s survey provides
data for the 2004-05 school year, collected in
the fall of 2004 from 542 public school
Subject-area supervisors 67,640
systems. Districts with fewer than
300 students were not surveyed. Data were Counselors 51,046
weighted to represent a national sample for the
first time this year. Education Week and ERS
will continue to work as partners to publish and Librarians 50,125
promote an annual salary report and other
national data on public schools. Teachers 45,448
The research service was founded in
School nurses 37,450
1973 by seven national school management
associations: the American Association of Schools
Administrators, the American Association of School Central-office secretaries 32,738
Personnel Administrators, the Association of
School Business Officials International, the Council School-building secretaries
of Chief State School Officers, the National
Association of Secondary School Principals, and the
National School
$0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Public Relations Association.

More information can be found online at: Average salary (thousands of dollars)

SOURCE: Educational Research Service, National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools, 2004-05

Mean salaries by student enrollment Mean salaries by community type

(2004-05) (2004-05)5

25,000 or more 10,000-24,999 2,500-9,999 300-2,499 Large urban Medium urban Suburban Small town Rural Mixed types

$177,196 $148,015 $127,721 $98,888 $171,407 $146,812 $140,636 $106,160 $87,995 $102,872
126,394 119,026 100,951 85,086 127,858 110,234 117,293 88,773 71,050 94,928
111,092 110,220 101,615 85,044 114,541 107,694 111,307 87,247 73,964 88,304

101,278 92,446 87,818 67,752 100,487 98,642 97,114 71,813 50,092 73,075
101,684 94,085 87,340 68,325 101,770 94,427 89,893 73,209 68,222 76,488
81,822 67,668 67,179 69,880 84,048 85,512 73,183 54,667 84,737 67,293
98,754 89,096 85,399 48,156 101,487 92,182 93,382 68,828 45,863 74,344
99,801 84,249 76,003 54,144 102,310 87,495 79,822 58,372 49,623 64,987
82,206 79,840 72,476 58,313 83,891 77,898 78,321 63,125 51,981 57,941
74,222 69,484 71,023 60,145 75,888 74,807 74,175 62,686 53,280 61,803
66,705 70,694 68,411 49,460 71,562 76,129 73,286 54,627 49,531 48,674

82,283 82,614 80,363 70,507 85,958 83,059 88,651 74,807 63,638 66,887
85,593 86,498 84,584 72,552 90,133 85,756 93,542 72,619 67,836 69,737
93,749 96,034 93,185 76,153 96,998 100,905 100,350 80,711 69,844 75,947

64,587 63,855 67,664 58,750 67,465 72,239 70,133 58,848 56,786 64,015
68,609 69,656 69,574 60,033 71,117 70,937 74,797 62,171 51,506 60,680
72,868 75,580 74,626 63,270 79,200 72,246 80,745 65,566 58,624 63,672
46,527 48,158 48,828 43,756 49,852 49,115 54,211 45,363 39,816 42,002
54,010 56,677 54,504 48,861 57,264 53,714 59,422 51,244 45,196 48,821
51,303 53,695 53,224 48,447 56,766 51,216 61,109 48,216 44,976 47,843
44,684 45,422 40,037 35,027 49,232 39,202 46,559 36,030 28,452 35,989
55,480 57,102 53,706 48,300 57,804 53,930 57,690 50,567 40,994 48,577

33,413 34,112 33,529 32,231 35,547 33,195 38,112 31,510 30,990 30,624
31,997 33,821 34,548 34,602 34,627 34,494 39,253 33,904 32,943 31,690
26,463 27,617 27,596 23,577 28,141 30,116 29,040 22,494 25,187 21,631

28,909 27,188 26,211 22,785 30,302 27,044 29,293 23,439 21,351 20,944
20,606 19,711 18,316 16,674 23,454 19,753 21,803 16,778 14,216 16,515

12.01/hr. 12.13/hr. 11.69/hr. 10.81/hr. 12.69/hr. 11.99/hr. 12.96/hr. 11.08/hr. 9.92/hr. 10.61/hr.
11.89 11.89 11.06 10.65 12.76 9.62 12.65 10.94 9.83 9.88
12.15 13.54 13.12 12.15 13.59 12.84 16.08 12.01 11.34 10.78
10.36 10.85 10.47 9.87 10.97 10.54 11.77 9.89 9.48 9.72
13.72 14.24 14.27 14.46 14.99 13.69 15.49 14.94 13.63 12.92

Community types were self-reported by districts and are defined as follows: large urban—large metropolitan area with a rural—farming or agricultural area with a population of fewer than 2,500 people; mixed types—diverse area containing two or
population greater than 400,000; medium urban—midsize metropolitan area with a population of fewer than 400,000; more community types, which may include county districts.
suburban—residential area or community outlying a city; small town—population center not within a metropolitan area;

Case VII: Teacher preparation, certification and testing in Massachusetts

IN THE NEWS APRIL 13, 2005 ■


Superintendents’ Salaries Salaries by Years in Current Position

On average, superintendents who have been in their 140

positions for more than seven years earn almost
$15,000 more than their peers who are brand-new to the $120,724 $121,398
job. In addition, male superintendents are typically paid 100 $106,330 $106,871 $109,254
$2,778 per year more than female superintendents.
Minority superintendents, especially minority women, 80
also earn higher pay than their white counterparts.



Salaries by Race $0
1 year 2-3 years 4-6 years 7-9 years 10 or more
or less years
$121,567 Salaries by Gender and Race
120 $127,112
60 $111,831 $112,372
$111,514 $108,736
100 $107,160
Black Hispanic White 40


Male White Minority Female White Minority
male male female female

A Regional Outlook
Great Lakes
Rocky Mountains Superintendent: $114,026
Superintendents, high school
Superintendent: $97,868
principals, and teachers in the Mideast, High school principal: $85,771
New England, and Far West are paid High school principal: $73,260 Teacher: $48,827
Superintendent: $90,591
significantly more than their Teacher: $39,803
High school principal: $70,627
counterparts in the Rocky
Teacher: $36,773
Mountains, Plains, or Southwest
regions. Superintendents in the
Mideast are paid 44 percent more
than those in the Plains, high school
principals in the Mideast are paid
New England
44 percent more than those in
Superintendent: $118,424
Southwest, and teachers in the
High school principal: $95,559
Mideast are paid 45 percent more
than their peers in the Plains. Teacher: $51,837

Far West Mideast

Superintendent: $122,500 Superintendent: $130,870
High school principal: $89,409 High school principal: $98,198
Teacher: $52,488 Teacher:

Superintendent: $110,055
Southwest High school principal: $76,497
Superintendent: $100,582 Teacher: $39,881
High School principal: $68,334
Teacher: $38,539