N.T.E. Undergoes Changes

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Philadelphia--The National Teacher Examination, taken by nearly half of last year's prospective teachers, will undergo a major revision intended to counter charges of cultural bias.

The revisions, which will take effect in November 1982, could make the test more difficult and encourage more testing of teacher candidates at a time when an increasing number of states are using competency tests as a criterion for teacher certification.

The Educational Testing Service, the nation's largest developer of standardized tests--including the NTE--,offered state and education-school officials an advance briefing on the new exam during a day-long session here recently.

The focus of the test will be shifted away from simple recall of factual information, according to Freida C. Rosner, ETS's program administrator for teacher exams.

Instead, she said, it will rely more heavily on everyday knowledge and will require students to comprehend, analyze, and apply facts. The general-knowledge section of the exam will be expanded to include a written essay, a listening test, and a reading comprehension section, but the 25 two-hour specialty exams will remain essentially the same.

Ms. Rosner said that the revision of the test format is an attempt to head off critics who accuse the NTE of cultural bias--primarily against blacks--because it frequently asks "esoteric, high-culture-type questions."

William U. Harris, program director of the NTE, said the new test, with its emphasis on testing the skills expected of "well-educated, literate problem solvers," should not be considered a minimum-competency test. The current NTE is used by states to test minimum-achievement standards.

Mr. Harris said the new test will be easier to use as an entrance examination and for diagnostic purposes than the current test, which is used primarily as an "exit" exam for seniors graduating from education schools.

Eight states--Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and North Carolina--currently require students to take the test in order to be certified. The Supreme Court in 1978 upheld South Carolina's right to use the test as a requirement for certification.

The NTE is also used by states to license audiologists and pathologists, and in some cases to evaluate the performance of education schools. About 100 school districts use the exam for hiring purposes. In all, 79,000 students in 30 states took some part of the NTE in 1979-80.

The $1-million revision is being directed by the NTE Policy Council, a group of 12 representatives from education schools, school districts, and state departments of education. There are no teachers on the council, which has controlled NTE policy since 1979.

J. Arthur Taylor, chief certification official in North Carolina, said he likes the new NTE format. "It is more realistic," he said. "It's less pie in the sky and more pie on the plate."

But he warned that testing is a simplistic solution to the problem of improving the quality of teachers entering the profession.

One state certification official, who asked that his name be withheld, was less than enthusiastic about the test. "The NTE is simplistic,'' he said. "It's not a test. Anyone can pass it. The revisions are not going to make much difference."

The revisions have not won over the nation's largest teachers' organization either. The National Education Association remains opposed to ''any paper and pencil test that is used as a criterion for certification, licensing, or graduation,"said Sharon Robinson, director of professional development. Ms. Robinson said the NEA has turned down requests by ETS and the NTE Policy Council to participate in the formulation of the test.

Vol. 01, Issue 01, Page 15

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