Friday, April 13, 2001

Would-be teachers ace test

At NKU, 96% pass licensing hurdle

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati-area students equaled or exceeded national pass/fail rates on the first report card on teacher licensing tests.

        Even so, educators were cautious, saying they distrust simple measures of complex professional preparation.

        Licensing tests are “only one little piece of evaluating teachers,” cautioned Notre Dame Sister Evelynn Reinke, director of student teaching at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills.

        “While test scores are important,” said Barbara J. Reid, chairwoman of the education department at the College of Mount St. Joseph, “we also believe that the preparation of teachers involves the development of communication skills, problem-solving abilities and the values of respect and social responsibility.”

        Each school's report card lists pass rates for each section of the state licensing exam, but the key number was the summary pass rate.

        Local bragging rights belong to Northern Kentucky University, tops with a 96 percent summary success rate, compared to 94 percent for the 2,300 test-takers in 26 teacher-training programs statewide and 91 percent nationally.

        Miami University, Thomas More College and the College of Mount St. Joseph reported 94 percent pass rates.

National data compiled
        The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University reported 91 percent pass rates.

        Ohio's success rate for 50 schools and about 7,000 test-takers was 91 percent.

        The data cover students who completed teacher training and took the tests during the 1999-2000 school year.

        Schools' results are being collected by each state and forwarded to the U.S. Department of Education in response to a new congressional demand for annual accountability.

Subsidies at risk
        Teacher training programs can lose federal support if students continually do poorly on annual state licensing exams. No one, however, has drawn that line yet.

        State licensing exams test general professional knowledge and specific subjects that students plan to teach.

        For instance, Ohio tests “principles of learning and teaching” appropriate to the grades that students hope to teach plus math, chemistry, English, French and other subjects.

        Although the data are meant to assess teacher training, educators say that the congressional mandate has built-in problems:

        • States use different tests, undermining the value of comparisons among states.

        • States using the same tests have different passing scores, raising similar questions about comparisons.

        • Schools with fewer than 10 students taking any section of the state licensing exam need not report pass/fail rates for those parts of the test.

        • Some states, such as Kentucky, do not require grads to take its test if they plan to teach elsewhere.

        • Summary numbers ignore some schools' efforts to recruit members of minority groups and first-generation college students who often have weaker college preparation and perform badly on standardized tests.


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