- The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has convened a literacy expert group to examine the current Reading Instruction Competence Assessment and determine whether it needs to be revised or eliminated as part of the credentialing requirement to become an elementary school or special education teacher in the state, EdSource reports.
- Critics of the test say it hasn't been revised since 2009, doesn't align to the current English language arts framework, and lacks evidence that teachers who pass perform better than those who fail.
- One of the main concerns is that roughly a third of teacher candidates taking the test between 2012 and 2017 failed the first time, though 91% passed after retaking the test multiple times at a cost of more than $170 each try. The results are even more discouraging for teaching candidates of color, as only about 45% of African-American and Latino candidates passed on the first try.
While California is facing a teacher shortage, especially in fields such as science, math and special education, it is not the only state facing this issue. According to a recent report issued by the Economic Policy Institute, the teacher shortage is growing at rates larger than expected. Teachers of color are also increasingly in demand as student populations shift and the need for greater diversity in the teacher workforce is recognized.
However, some tests required of teachers seem to be either too hard for many teacher candidates or are misaligned with current standards, and this seems to be adding to shortages. Florida, for instance, made some of its tests more difficult to boost teacher quality and saw pass rates plummet. And a report released earlier this year by the National Council on Teacher Quality noted that the Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects test, the most popular licensure test in the nation, now has a first time pass rate of 46%, making it harder to pass than most bar exams, Education Week reports.
Schools of education must ensure teacher candidates are better prepared to pass these tests. Training in reading instruction is especially important because so much hinges on students' literacy skills. But tests given to prospective teachers sometimes lag behind current teaching standards and methods, making them even more difficult to pass.
States have an obligation to make sure well-qualified teachers are entering the classroom. But when a teacher shortage means that many students are being taught by substitutes or teachers with substandard or emergency credentials, students are still not being taught by credentialed teachers. Some states are reconsidering their licensure requirements by revising or eliminating tests or offering more alternative pathways to licensure. As state standards and labor markets change, state lawmakers may need to be willing to re-examine current tests and credentials to make sure they are allowing enough qualified teachers to make it to the classroom.