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Grades of Future California Teachers Above Average, Study Says

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Sacramento--Prospective teachers in California are more successful academically than some surveys would indicate, according to a California State University study.

The study found that students recommended for teaching credentials, after completing coursework at one of 18 of the 19 California State University campuses, had slightly higher grade-point averages than students in the same major, or a similar major, who did not have teaching as a career goal.

David C. Cohen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Bakersfield, reviewed the3grade records of 2,841 candidates for teaching credentials and 2,757 other students--selected at random from a list of those receiving bachelor's degrees between 1979 and 1982.

Slightly Higher Scores

He reported that credential candidates held a slight advantage--less than a tenth of a grade point--in cumulative grade-point average, both in their academic major at the time they began professional education courses and in subjects identified as basic skills (lower-division courses in English composition, speech, mathematics, and logic).

Mr. Cohen said in an interview that grades for both groups of students tended to cluster around a B average.

In the basic-skills category, he said, "the study suggests that the teacher candidates are pretty good at reading, writing, and computation ... at least as good as other students."

"The public criticism would lead you to believe that people going into teaching are such bad students they can't possibly do a good job as teachers," Mr. Cohen said.

"But they're not weak students. They're pretty average, even a little better than average. They're not drawn from that risky group who have been mediocre students."

Grades, Not Tests

Mr. Cohen said that grade-point averages provide a more accurate measurement of academic achievement than scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (sat) for college ad-mission or the new California Basic Educational Skills Test (cbest) required of beginning teachers.

Researchers have reported that high-school seniors taking the sat and indicating a desire to enter the teaching profession scored, on the average, 30 points below the national mean between 1978 and 1982.

"However, there is no assurance that these students maintain their interest in a teaching career, that they enter and graduate from college, that they are admitted to teacher-education programs, or that they complete those programs," Mr. Cohen said.

"The self-reported intention of those persons to become teachers is far removed from their actual entrance into the teaching profession. Furthermore, other high-school students who expressed a different career goal on the s.a.t. questionnaire and who scored higher on the s.a.t. examinations, may ultimately become teachers."

On the first administration of the cbest in December 1982, only 62el30lpercent of the 7,000 students who took the competency tests in reading, writing, and computation earned passing grades in all three sections.

Teacher Test 'Misleading'

Mr. Cohen believes the cbest results "may also be misleading. Those taking the tests include an unknown mix of newly credentialed teachers, mid-career teachers, prospective entrants into teacher-education programs, and others."

Mr. Cohen said that when he began the study in April 1983, a number of deans of c.s.u. education schools "expressed very deep concerns and felt the results were going to come out very badly [for prospective teachers]. But they made it clear they would accept the results."

Linda Bunnell Jones, the c.s.u. system's dean of academic program improvement, said she was delighted that the grade-point averages for credential candidates were higher than expected.

"You're never going to get people into teaching if they think only the dregs go into it," she said.

The only c.s.u. campus that did not participate in Mr. Cohen's study was a large, urban campus that was in the process of changing its record-keeping procedures at the time.

Will Maintain New Rule

Even though the results of the study were favorable, Ms. Jones said, c.s.u. will proceed with plans announced a year ago to require that students admitted to teacher-training programs represent the upper half academically of the undergraduate student population on each campus.

"We're pleased that the students leaving our teacher-preparation programs are doing well, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still insist on high standards for people who are coming in," Ms. Jones concluded.

The 19-campus csu system prepares more than half the teachers educated in California and one of every 12 teachers in the nation.

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