It's not what it looks like.
That's the message that Connecticut education officials are sending after shaving a few points off the minimum score needed to pass the state's licensing exam for math teachers.
On Oct. 3, the state board of education voted to change the assessment's cutoff score from 141 points to 137, out of a possible 200. Members of the panel maintain that the move represents a technical correction rather than a bid to improve recruitment by lowering the bar for those entering the field.
In part, the idea was to bring the mathematics assessment in line with the state's licensure tests in other subjects, where the passing rates have been much higher. The new cutoff is expected to raise the passing rate on the math test from 70 percent to about 76 percent.
Moreover, education department officials say, the adjustment was needed because Connecticut's exam comes in more than one version. As a result, a test-taker could get a slightly different score based on which form of the test he or she completed.
"We will not lower standards in order to deal with shortages," said state board member Allan Taylor. "The way to solve the teacher shortage is to bring more people up to the standards."
Still, the change prompted some concern that the state's commitment to raising teacher quality might be slipping. Connecticut has long enjoyed a national reputation for setting high expectations for its classroom educators.
An editorial in the New Haven Register posited that "the lowering of the test score by any other name is still lowering how much you need to know to pass the test."
The new cutoff scores are retroactive to when the math licensing exam was first implemented in 1997.
That's good news to 34 teacher-candidates who took the test during that time and failed to achieve the original requirement, but met the new one. The education department is informing them that they now qualify to teach math in Connecticut.
Vol. 21, Issue 7, Page 18Published in Print: October 17, 2001, as State Journal