It's not easy for Oklahoma schools to find new teachers these days. The state has beefed up its certification requirements, while teacher salaries remain well below those in nearby states—even after a $3,000 raise last spring.
Now some local school officials say the state's professional-skills test is out of whack, making it even harder to fill classroom vacancies.
William J. Seitter, the superintendent of the 300-student Covington-Douglas schools, notes that there are wide disparities in the pass rates for the four versions of the test, which covers subjects such as pedagogical knowledge and statutory obligations.
Between last October, when the test was first given, and March, only 67.8 percent of the candidates who took the "multilevel" version of the test passed it, and only 70.2 percent passed the early-childhood version. Yet 96.4 percent of those who took the elementary education version passed, as did 94.9 percent of those who took the secondary version.
"When you look at those numbers, there's something wrong," Mr. Seitter said. "It's supposed to be testing the same thing."
Julie E. Flegal, the assessment director of the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation, which oversees the tests, said that she was looking into the disparities, but suggested that the answer probably lies in the preparation of the test-takers.
Many of those taking the multilevel test—required for certification in foreign languages, special education, music, and art—focused on the secondary level at college, Ms. Flegal said. "They are not going to be as strong in areas that address early-childhood and elementary areas," she added.
The lower pass rate on the early-childhood test could result from overreaching by some current teachers. "Individuals who are elementary-certified may be tempted to take the [early childhood test] without having to take the coursework," she said.
Vol. 19, Issue 43, Page 23