Educators Repeatedly Flunk Required Exams
Lorraine Snowden is a teacher at Urban Park Elementary in East Dallas. State records show Snowden started taking her certification exams back in 1989 but failed year after year until she finally passed in 2003. She flunked exams a total of 54 times in 14 years.
The Texas Education Agency told Fox 4 most teachers in Texas pass certification exams on the first try. So, Fox 4 analyzed TEA’s teacher testing data to see how teachers at major school districts in North Texas fared on the first try. The records show: at Plano ISD 20% failed exams at least once; at Arlington ISD 25%; at Fort Worth ISD 34%; and at Dallas ISD 41% failed a test at least once, 3790 teachers. The data show 478 DISD teachers failed a test at least 5 times. 71 of them took 10 times or more to pass a certification exam.
“(It is) highly unlikely you are going to find an effective teacher among those who can’t pass those minimum competency tests.”
It’s not just teachers Fox 4 found having trouble passing certification exams. Dolores Chavez failed the exam required for school principals 16 times. State records don’t show her ever passing the exam. Yet Fox 4 found her working as an assistant principal at Barbara Jordan Elementary School.
I'm not a fan of so-called certification requirements, but I do support basic competency testing. Effective teachers and administrators will easily pass tests measuring basic competency.
Here is the 2006 version of the TAKS. I've been told that the California test is designed to be on a 10th grade level and very easy. Here is a CBEST practice test.
Here's a sample question from the CBEST (California):
After touring the plains toward the close of the cowboy era, journalist Richard Harding Davis observed, "The inhabited part of a ranch, the part of it on which the owners live, bears about the same proportion to the rest of the ranch as a lighthouse does to the ocean around it."
Based on Richard Harding Davis' observation, which of the following can be inferred about a ranch toward the close of the cowboy era?
A. Most of a ranch was uninhabited by its owners.
B. The size of a ranch rivaled the size of an ocean.
C. Inhabitants of a ranch typically lived in privacy and seclusion.
D. The working area around a ranch was uninhabitable by humans.
E. The inhabitants of a ranch, like those of a lighthouse, should be viewed as caretakers.
(The correct answer is A)
There have been some dispute that this type of testing is discrimitory because minority teachers fail the test more refrequently than whites.
Even more disturbing for some was the fact that minorities were failing the tests in disproportionately high numbers. "Fully 72 percent of blacks and 52 percent of Hispanics," Toch wrote, "have failed the Texas education school admission examination, compared with 27 percent of whites. In New York, 64 percent of blacks failed the communications-skills section of that state's teacher-licensing examination in 1987, 65 percent failed the general-knowledge section, and 43 percent failed the professional-knowledge section; the failure rates for whites were 17 percent, 22 percent, and 9 percent, respectively. In Florida, 63 percent of blacks, 50 percent of Hispanics, and 12 percent of whites have failed the state's basic-skills teacher-licensing examination since its inception in the early 1980s.
The problem with the plaintiffs' case against the CBEST is this: When you look at the test itself, it's hard to imagine how any college graduate couldn't pass it.
Albert Shanker calls the test "extremely easy." David Wright, director of professional services for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, testified that he gave portions of the test to his then 11-year-old triplets, and they answered all 60 questions correctly. "Each reported to me that they found the items 'easy,' " Wright noted. Gary Hart, the former California state lawmaker who sponsored the initial CBEST legislation, says the test is "not a particularly sophisticated examination." Mary Bergan, president of the California Federation of Teachers, which supported the CBEST right from the start, says, "It's an easy test." (The much larger California Teachers Association was less enthusiastic about the idea, but it eventually supported the CBEST. In 1993, however, it filed a friend of the court brief in support of the plaintiffs' lawsuit. The CTA argued that the test was a "major impediment" to achieving ethnic and racial diversity in the schools and therefore should be scrutinized by the court.)
[Taking on the test]"
The test may reveal racial discrimination, but not in the way the plaintiffs charged. The fact that college graduates are failing the test with such racial differences points to possible reverse discrimination. Are white students held to higher standards than minority students and are consequently receiving a better education?
All of this points to still greater problems with a teacher training system that produces so many teachers of all backgrounds who can't pass a 10th grade test.
Which brings me to this philosophical question: Should there be a place in public education for teachers with mid to low academic performance? Does it influence the quality of instruction when the shop teacher can't do geometry or a grade school teacher can't write a 10th grade essay?
There would be some that would argue that it doesn't matter. For example, the level of parental education is not much of a factor in homeschool success. Parents with no college degree routinely turn out well educated homeschooled children. However, the homeschool realm is more flexible than public education. Homeschool parents utilize resources and methods not generally available to large classroom settings.
Then, what makes a successful teacher in a classroom setting? If it were my child, I would want a teacher that spoke and wrote grammatically correct with a large vocabulary. I would want a teacher with good analytical skills. Both of these requirements are easily measured with a well- designed basic skills test. However, a test can't measure teaching and classroom management skill, high character or good judgment which are equally important. We all have had at least one really smart teacher who was a really awful teacher.
Ultimately, I do support the use of tests like the CBEST and the TAKS as a way to measure the quality of teacher training. It is important that these tests are well-designed so that they measure what they claim to measure. Also, other methods of evaluating teacher performance must also be included to weed out those who don't have the temperament or training to manage a classroom of students.
Related Tags: homeschool, public school, CBEST, TAKS, Teacher certification, teacher training, basic skills tests, discrimination