To the Editor:
The article “You’re More Likely to Pass the Bar Than an Elementary Teacher Licensing Exam” (March 5, 2019) covers “A Fair Chance,” the report from the National Council on Teacher Quality about how teacher licensure exams disproportionately screen out aspiring teachers of color from the profession. This report, however, ignores all insights from the most important source: aspiring teachers of color themselves.
Studies sharing insights from these aspiring teachers demonstrate there is more to licensure exams than the report conveys. In 2006, Christine Bennett and colleagues found that Black and Latinx students who perform well on licensure exams have stronger ethnic identities than those who struggle on exams. In 2014 and 2015, I found the exams can become a racially charged experience related to intelligence, character, and test preparation for some African-American test-takers. All of these insights come from working directly with aspiring teachers of color.
Studies of this nature exceed the number of statistical studies on the topic—the only kind that “A Fair Chance” uses. The issue here is not about research methods, however, but about how this report misrepresents a delicate topic by overlooking the insights from people most affected by it. These studies exist in publications that are available to NCTQ researchers. How do we know this? Because NCTQ draws from other studies in these same databases and academic search engines.
The report’s omission of insight from aspiring teachers of color directs attention away from any problems with these exams, the companies that make and profit from them, and policies that states set around them. The point here is not to cast blame. Complex problems have complex sources. But by limiting the scope of the issue, NCTQ would have the public believe the only way to diversify the teaching profession is for teacher education programs to wrap their curricula around these narrow exams.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Mich.
A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2019 edition of Education Week as What the NCTQ Report Misses