School & District Management

Licensing Exam for Principal Candidates Unveiled

By Bess Keller — May 06, 1998 2 min read
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The Educational Testing Service last week unveiled a new licensure exam for principals that it developed as part of a broad effort to evaluate prospective school leaders.

Four states--Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina--and the District of Columbia have adopted the six-hour test, said Neil J. Shipman, project director of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium. The consortium, a 23-state group on licensing school leaders, worked with the ETS to create the test. (“New Exam for Would-Be Principals Provides States a Tool for Licensing,” Nov. 5, 1997.)

Officials attending a press conference here said they expect 12 to 15 states to give the exam within five years.

“This test measures the skills needed for entry-level professionals to perform competently on this job,” said Sharon Robinson, a senior vice president and the chief operating officer for Princeton, N.J.-based ETS.

Currently, 35 states require no tests for prospective principals. Of the rest, most give a multiple-choice test developed by the ETS.

The new exam calls for written responses to real-world situations and “centers on candidates’ ability to inspire and lead good instruction,” said Gordon M. Ambach, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which organized the licensure consortium.

Vote of Confidence

The test reflects national standards for school leaders set by the consortium in cooperation with national groups representing principals, school boards, and schools of education.

Nearly two out of three Americans strongly favor testing aspiring principals to weed out ones who don’t know how to boost student achievement, according to a poll released here last week in concert with the formal unveiling of the licensure exam.

Commissioned by the ETS and the state chiefs’ group, the poll reached a sample of 1,013 Americans by telephone last month. The margin of error was 3 percentage points. Most Americans apparently welcome a principals’ test, the results show. Fewer than 15 percent oppose the idea, and support was about equally strong among those with children in school and those without.

More than half of those polled agreed that testing new principals before they are licensed is about as important as testing prospective teachers. Another 22 percent said it was more important.

Stephen D. Young, the principal of New Hope-Solebury High School in New Hope, Pa., who worked on the test’s content, praised the assessment.

“It reflects the consortium’s standards,” he said. “It is challenging, and it promotes the public welfare by setting higher entry standards for the profession.”

The exam, which costs $450, will be scored by school administrators trained by the ETS. Candidates will either pass or fail, with the minimum score set for each state by authorities there.


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