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Slim Majority Passes New Teacher Test in Connecticut

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Only a slight majority of the college students taking Connecticut's first examination for prospective teachers passed in all three subject areas required, the state department of education has announced.

Of the 434 teacher-education can-didates taking the Connecticut4Competency Examination for Prospective Teachers (conncept) this fall, nearly 85 percent passed the reading test, 73 percent passed the writing section, and 71 percent passed the mathematics test. But only 52 percent passed in all three subject areas, education officials said last month.

An additional 51 students were exempted from the examination because they scored at least 1,000 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Too Early to Tell

Education Commissioner Gerald N. Tirozzi said it was too early to draw conclusions about the quality of the state's colleges based on the test results because fewer than half of the college students seeking to enter teacher-education programs took the exam in the fall.

The test will be administered again in March, giving the state a more representative picture of prospective teachers, he said. On the first test date, six institutions with teacher-preparation programs had no students taking the exam.

The test is the first in a series of measures that Connecticut officials are considering to improve teacher quality. Others under discussion include subject-area assessments for teacher certification and performance assessments.

Beginning July 1, college students who want to enter teacher-preparation programs must either pass all three portions of the test or receive the sat waiver. Those seeking certification will also have to pass the exam or receive the waiver, beginning May 1, 1987.

Students may take the exam as early as the freshman year of college and may retake it an unlimited number of times.

Breaking the Cycle

"The chief purpose of conncept is to bring the issue of teacher quality forward and to provide an opportunity to break the cycle of underprepared students and underprepared teachers," said Norma Foreman Glasgow, state commissioner of higher education.

While officials should be concerned about the number of students failing the exam as a whole, she said, they should also be heartened by the scores on the individual subtests.

"Those who have failed will be able to take advantage of a variety of tutorials, learning labs, and developmental courses offered by Connecticut colleges and universities," she added. "Those who are not willing to improve their skills will not be able to enter the teaching profession."

No Minorities

One particularly troubling aspect of the test results, according to Mr. Tirozzi, was the small number of minority students who even took the exam. Only 17 minority students took conncept and three passed. Because of the small number of students involved, he added, those initial results cannot be considered representative of minority teacher-candidates as a group.

Mr. Tirozzi also said the test results point to a need to raise high-school standards in the state.

"I have a continuing concern about the meaning and value of a high-school diploma," he said. "We are about to establish a committee that will try to define the levels and breadth of learning that should be expected for all graduates in Connecticut. I think that until high schools raise their standards and hold students accountable for them, it will remain difficult for colleges to meet their higher academic goals."

In 1985, a committee appointed by the state board of education to consider the possibility of a high-school exit test recommended against establishing such a requirement.

Test Development

Committees of educators from across the state determined the knowledge and skills to be tested in the three conncept subject areas and recommended passing standards for each subject. The state board of education approved the standards in June.

The total exam, which lasts for three hours, requires students to produce a writing sample on a given topic and to answer multiple-choice questions in the mathematics and reading sections.

In addition to providing "pass-fail" information, the test results identify students' deficiencies in each subject area so that they can work to correct problems.

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