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Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as NRC Study Will Track States' Teacher-Licensing Efforts

NRC Study Will Track States' Teacher-Licensing Efforts

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The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has launched a 20-month study of the measures states use to license teachers and ways in which they might be improved.

The $1.08 million study by the newly formed Committee on Assessment and Teacher Quality is being financed by the Department of Education.

Linda Darling-Hammond

"There is enormous pressure in the states to do something now about teacher quality," said Terry Dozier, the special adviser on teaching to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. She noted that states will have to hire an estimated 2.2 million new teachers in the next decade.

"We have people all over the country asking questions about the quality of people entering the profession and what these tests actually measure," Ms. Dozier said.

The 17-member committee--which includes experts in assessment and measurement, pedagogy, teacher education, economics, psychology, and law--held its first meeting in Washington this month.

Next February, the committee is scheduled to release an interim report that will focus on the measures states now use to license teachers.

The second phase of the study will explore possible alternatives for measuring teacher quality. The committee's final report is scheduled to be released in November 2000.

Present System 'Inadequate'

Some of the topics the committee is expected to address include the validity, reliability, and fairness of existing teacher-licensure tests; the effects of such tests on teacher quality and on student achievement; and the strengths and weaknesses of potential alternatives.

Currently, 44 states require teachers to pass a test to earn a license. But the tests vary considerably from state to state. They may measure anything from basic skills to subject-matter knowledge to actual teaching performance.

Even when states use similar exams, the standards set for passing vary. Thus, the effects of the tests on ensuring teacher quality are unclear.

Such tests have come under particularly intense scrutiny over the past year, in part because of high failure rates among prospective teachers on new tests in Massachusetts.

"All of us feel that what's going on at the present time is inadequate to really do the job states want," said David Z. Robinson, the chairman of the NRC committee and a former executive vice president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Linda Darling-Hammond, a member of the committee and a professor of education at Stanford University, agreed.

"There's not much evidence," she said, "that most of what's used has a strong correlation with ability to teach."

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 12

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