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Many Prospective Teachers Fail Colorado Test

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Denver--A majority of prospective Colorado teachers failed the mathematics portion of a new competency test that was administered for the first time in January.

In making initial test results public last week, Commissioner of Education Calvin M. Frazier also disclosed that more than one-third of the would-be teachers failed the grammar and spelling portions of the examination.

According to Melvin Spurlin, state supervisor of teacher education and certification, a law passed by the Colorado legislature last year requires all students who want to undertake teacher-training in the state to take a standardized competency test to enroll, and to pass it before being allowed to begin practice-teaching in the schools.

All graduates of teacher-training programs in other states, he said, must pass the test to receive a Colorado teaching certificate.

Teachers holding a state teaching certificate on Jan. 1 of this year are exempted from the new requirement, Mr. Spurlin said.

The law also requires competence in English, he added, but that requirement can be met by passing a standard college course with a grade of B or better.

Mr. Frazier reported that 53 percent of the teachers from other states who had applied for Colorado teaching certificates in January had passed the mathematics portion of the test, and more than 75 percent had passed the grammar and spelling portions of the test.

The new testing requirement, using the commercially available 12th-grade edition of the California Achievement Test, replaces a competency program in effect since 1975, under which each of the state's 15 teacher-training institutions selected their own examinations and determined their own passing scores.

Conceding that "the initial results are disappointing," Mr. Frazier predicted that test scores will rise quickly as students begin to take the competency requirement more seriously and study for the examination.

Of the more than 600 prospective teachers--most of them college freshmen--taking the test in January at 11 colleges and universities, 62 percent passed the spelling portion of the test, 61 percent passed the grammar portion, and 48 percent passed the mathematics portion.

Students at four other teacher-training institutions have not yet taken the tests. About 5,000 people each year enroll in state teacher-training programs or seek a Colorado teaching license.

The highest passing rates were recorded at the state's two largest universities--the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University in Ft. Collins--and at Colorado College, a small private institution in Colorado Springs.

The lowest percentage of passing grades was recorded by two small public colleges in the southern and western portions of the state--Adams State College in Alamosa, and Ft. Lewis College in Durango.

Explanations for the generally low scores ranged from Mr. Frazier's speculation that students did not take the test seriously, to a lack of adequate high-school preparation.

Lack Appropriate Skills

"Many students do not come to college with appropriate skills," said Barbara Baker, director of teacher education at Loretto Heights College, a small private school in Denver.

The sponsor of the competency laws, State Representative John Herzog, a Colorado Springs Republican, said initial test results were "frightening," but added that "it's good that we know."

Mr. Herzog said he would wait two years to see how the new testing program works, but did not rule out the possibility of making the competency examination a requirement for renewal of current teaching certificates.

Mr. Frazier said the decision to set the passing level at the 75th percentile has brought sharp complaints from some students and faculty at schools of education.

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