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Published in Print: May 19, 1999, as Teaching Prospects Show Mixed SAT Scores

Teaching Prospects Show Mixed SAT Scores

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Prospective teachers don't score nearly as well on SAT exams as do other college graduates, but they outperform their peers in the subjects they plan to teach, a study released last week reveals.

The final version of the report by the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., and ACT Inc. in Iowa City, Iowa, which was unveiled at a press conference here, aimed to profile teachers who are currently seeking teaching licenses. The study also records an apparent lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the teaching force and predicts that the number of minority educators in the profession will decrease further if state governments mandate tougher teaching standards.

For More Information

"The Impact of Admissions and Licensure Testing" is available for $15 from the Educational Testing Service, Teaching and Learning Division, Research and Data Analysis Group, Mail Stop 15-D, Rosedale Road, Princeton, NJ 08541. It is also available on the World Wide Web at www.ets.org/praxis/ researchrpt.html". (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

A draft of the report was previewed at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in March. ("Prospective Teachers' SAT Scores Higher Than Believed, Study Finds," March 10, 1999.)

The study, which in many respects reinforces the stereotype that prospective teachers don't perform as well in school as other students, also points to standardized-test scores showing that aspiring elementary teachers don't do nearly as well as prospective middle and high school educators.

"Overall, teachers do much worse [than other college graduates]," said Andrew S. Latham, an ETS program administrator and an author of the report. "But you've got to counter that with how well they do in content-specific areas. [Teachers] are above or right above all other college graduates."

Of some 140,000 students who passed the PRAXIS II exam, the test that 30 states use to gauge subject-area knowledge, teachers-in-training received an average score of 507 on the mathematics section of the SAT I:Reasoning Test and an average of 522 on the verbal portion between 1994 and 1997, the study reports. On average, college graduates scored 542 on the math section and 543 on the verbal portion of the sat, out of a maximum possible score of 800 on each of those sections.

Elementary education majors--nearly 50 percent of all prospective teachers--received the lowest scores of all those who planned to become teachers, the report states. On average, that group received scores of 486 in math and 498 on the verbal portion.

Subject Superiority

The good news, however, is that teachers often outshone their peers in the disciplines in which they intended to specialize.

The newly minted teachers who earned licenses to teach math scored up to 55 points higher on the mathematics section of the exam than did all other college students, while those who wanted to teach science scored up to 27 points higher in math. Those who planned to teach social studies, a foreign language, science, and English received scores up to 35 points higher on the verbal section.

Officials at the press conference de-emphasized the report's bad news. "This landmark study refutes decades-old allegations of teachers' academic inferiority to other professionals and should now allow valuable time and attention to be devoted to the critical issues of teaching for student learning and achievement," said David G. Imig, the chief executive of AACTE, a 735-member group in Washington.

Critics, however, contended that the study's authors failed to match up their subjects appropriately. The scores of prospective math teachers, for example, should have been compared with scores of engineers and accountants, they said, rather than with those of students who eventually ended up teaching.

"The real standard should be how math teachers compare to other mathematicians," said Amy Wilkins, a senior associate with the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group based in Washington.

Mr. Latham agreed with the criticism, adding that the report "raises as many questions as it answers."

Additional follow-up studies on the subject of teacher quality are planned, he said.

In other findings, researchers learned that nearly 85 percent of the new pool of potential teachers were white, while only 6 percent were African-American; 2 percent, Hispanic; and 2 percent, Asian-American, the report states. The ratio of women to men was 3-to-1.

Raising standards for entry into teaching, currently a politically popular idea, would only perpetuate the imbalance, the report argues. Only 69 percent of African-American and 48 percent of Hispanic students passed the PRAXIS II exam from 1994 to 1997, compared with 91 percent of white students.

Demographic Shift?

Those demographics will likely shift as more and more minority students enter higher education, and therefore, go into teaching, over the next several years, said Arthur E. Wise, the president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Vol. 18, Issue 36, Page 8

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