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Conn. Teacher-Candidates Have Improved Since Test Was Instituted, Study Concludes

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By Ann Bradley

The quality of candidates seeking to become teachers in Connecticut has improved significantly since the state began administering competency tests in 1985, according to a study by the state education department.

The Connecticut Competency Examination for Prospective Teachers, known as conncept, measures candidates' skills in reading, writing, and mathematics.

All students seeking entry into teacher-preparation programs in the state, and all candidates for teacher licenses, are required to meet the conncept requirement.

Candidates can do so either by passing all three sections of the test in one sitting, or by receiving waivers based on their scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the American College Testing program, or the Prueba de Aptitude Academica.

In addition to developing conncept, Connecticut in 1986 passed legislation substantially increasing salaries of the state's teachers, whose average pay now ranks second in the nation.

During the last two years studied, the new report notes, the number of people seeking waivers exceeded the number of candidates passing the test. State officials point to the number of waiv4ers as evidence that higher-quality candidates have become interested in teaching.

"I consider this significant," said Commissioner of Education Gerald N. Tirozzi, "because it allows policymakers to see very clearly the relationship between increased salaries and standards and interest in the teaching profession."

To receive a waiver based on the sat, for example, a candidate must have proof of a combined score of 1,000 or more, with a minimum of 400 on the verbal and the mathematics subtests. The national average for the total test is 903, the study notes.

Minority Concerns

The state study analyzed test-takers and results for the period from October 1985 to March 1989. During its first two years, the test was required only of entrants into teacher-preparation programs. Subsequently, it was made mandatory for all candidates for state licensure.

The overall four-year pass rate on the examination--which may be taken an unlimited number of times--was 80 percent.

The performance of candidates who identified themselves as members of a minority group, however, lagged significantly behind that of other candidates, the report says.

The pass rate for minority candidates was 52 percent, compared with 83 percent for other candidates. Five percent of all test-takers identified themselves as members of a minority group.

"This is a major area of concern and must be addressed if we are to increase our pool of qualified minority teachers," Mr. Tirozzi said.

Performance Has Improved

Performance on the assessment has improved consistently from year to year, the study indicates. In 1985, 55 percent of those taking the test passed it the first time, compared with 69.3 percent in 1988-89.

Since October 1985, 12,233 candidates have either attempted to pass the competency test or requested waivers. Of the 2,696 people who failed the test on their first attempt, 62 percent retook the examination, the study says.

The report notes that in 1987-88--the first year that all candidates for state licensure were required to meet the conncept requirement--the demand for waivers increased by 580 percent, while the number of candidates who took the tests increased by 120 percent.

"The increasing number of waivers suggests Connecticut has been successful in its efforts to attract more skilled individuals to teaching," it concludes.

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